Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ross Andru and Spider-Man

To me... the "ultimate" Spider-Man comic was when it was drawn by Ross Andru.

Although I greatly enjoyed Spider-Man by both Romitas... when started reading the tales of the Amazing Spider-Man in the 70s... it was beautifully drawn by Ross Andru.

I was a little too young when John Romita was drawing the book... so although I saw some of his work years later... the definitive Spider-Man to me was as he was when drawn by Andru.

Although JRJR also did a great job on Spider-Man... especially when inked by Jim Mooney.

But given the choice... I would still pick Ross Andru as the definitive Spider-Man artist in my book.

Not just because of the way that he drew Spider-Man... but also because of how he drew the whole cast in the comic.

It also was the time of some of the coolest villains ever... the Tarantula, the Cyclone, Mirage, the Grizzly.... okay... maybe not the Grizzly. Even back then I thought the Grizzly was a pretty crappy villain.

Although one of my favorite comic from Andru has to be Amazing Spider-Man #153, although it has none of those cool villains. Don't ask why... I still can't explain it today.... but I loved that comic.

I also loved his backgrounds... especially his cityscapes as Spidey was swinging above the city.

And let not forget the Spider-Mobile. ;)

It cracks me up just thinking about it.

I also discovered some of Spider-Man's more classic villains during Andru's run like Mysterio, the Kingpin, the Scorpion. Although to me, they were all brand new characters since it was my first time encoutering them in them comics.

I most especially loved the first time I saw Doc Ock (Amazing Spider-Man #157). Loved the cliffhanger with Spidey falling to his death on the last page. Although, many years would pass before I was finally able to read the conclusion of that story.

Strangely enough.... I don't have that many comics by Andru. As a kid, I got some of his Spider-man work... some Marvel Team-Up... and a few Wonder Woman issues.

But through the years... from time to time I find some gem that Andru did in his carreer.

For example when I got the Marvel/DC Crossover Classics TPB, I got quite a kick from reading the Spider-Man/Superman tale masterfully pencilled by Andru.

More recently... I got the Essential Punisher Vol.1 with a few cool Andru comic... some of which even featured Nightcrawler and some of the X-Men from way back then.

So from time to time... I can still treat myself with some "new" Ross Andru comics that I have never read before.

When that happens... life is good. ;)

Special Note from Jim - Pierre sends his regrets that his duties at work this week prevented him from preparing a tribute to Dick Giordano another great artist from the Bronze Age who passed away a few days ago.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Baffling Mysteries at DC

Note to Free Comic Downloaders - Feel free to skip my musings if you are looking for today's free comics.

Mystery 1
The DC Red Circle Revival

So it looks like I wasn't the only one who thought the Red Circle revival by DC wasn't well thought out, as DC has recently announced they are going to cancel both The Shield and The Web with issues 10.

As of issue 6, both comics were selling at or below 6,000 units. With 4 more issues to go before they get to 10, I think we are going to see some history making low issues sales.

For the past couple of weeks, I was wondering exactly what was the plan with these books, but thanks to a sideways comment from the guys at the Mayo Report Podcast, I think I've figured out what happened here.

I think DC licensed these characters quite some time ago (possibly under Paul Levitz' watch) and the time span of that license was going to expire soon - without DC ever exercising their right to publish some comics with the characters - which would have meant DC paid some money for nothing.

Enter the hastily thought out JMS Red Circle revival. I also suspect the terms of the licensing deal must have guaranteed a certain amount of issues were published (else wise, why would DC continue to put on 4 more issues of books that are already selling at ridiculous levels?)

I don't expect to ever get a verification of this theory, but it strikes me as a likely explanation.

Mystery 2
How will DC become number 1 Comics Publisher?

Recently at a ComicsPRO conference in Mephsis, Dan Didio confirmed that DC was going to try and overtake Marvel as the number one publisher of comics by changing some internal policies(?) that will allow them to green light more projects quicker. If find this interesting for two reasons:

One, in the past, it has seemed like SOP for DC to discount sales numbers by proclaiming that their main concern was quality, not sales. What's behind the change in priorities? Is this Diane Nelson acting on Time Warner's desire to heighten the profile of their precious superhero IP?

Two, I wonder how is DC realistically going to achieve this goal. What exactly will more comics really do for them? If they use the same MO they've used over the past year on some new titles, I don't expect to see much of a change. Over the past year, DC launched a couple of revivals of some of their older characters (Nemesis, Azrael, Doom Patrol, Warlord, Human Target) as well as titles with completely new characters (Great Ten, Magog, Red Robin) Of the comics I just mentioned, only 2 are selling above 15K (the statistical break even point for a comic book.) The rest are selling in the 10 - 5K range.

So, if DC add 10 - 20 new mid list titles to their offerings in an attempt to flood the market and push Marvel out of the top spot, are retailers going to reach deep into their coffers and buy equal amounts of the new titles in hopes that they might sell better than the past year's mid listers? Or is DC just going to dilute the sales of their existing mid list titles?

So, unless something major changes, I don't see DC reaching that goal. Which might look bad when you get around to your yearend appraisal.

Anyway - enough of those baffling mysteries - enjoy these!

Baffling Mysteries

[ Baffling Mysteries 11 ]

Baffling Mysteries

[ Baffling Mysteries 13 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Comics on the iPad

In honor of the nice folks over at Comic Zeal using our comics in some of their recent news update we here at the Flashback Universe thought that you'd like to be informed & updated on the subject of comics on the iPad.

COMICS: Reading

"The iPad is just perfect for Comic Zeal, there was never a question that I’d be creating a version of Comic Zeal for it. There are three things I’d like to address today, first I’d like to take you through the Comic Zeal 4 interface, then we’ll talk about importing comics and we’ll talk about upgrading and versions last."~comiczeal

They go on to explain..

"Comic Zeal 4 is able to read CBZ,ZIP,CBR and RAR files natively. So you can just fire up SyncDocs on your PC or Mac, drag in a whole bunch of CBZ files and import them into Comic Zeal. Comic Zeal will still need to process the comics and resize the images, although they’re now 60% larger than they were before. This process is going to be optimized and tweaked once we get our hands on a real iPad. At the moment we have no idea how long it will take to process the comics and it could be that on release, using Comic Zeal Sync is still the best option."

"CBR News reached out to many players from across the downloadable comics sphere for early reactions to the news of the iPad and found many responses as to what the next step for publishers and content providers will be. Although one thing was generally agreed upon, fans can expect everyone to get..."~cbr

"As Apple announced it's iPad device today, Comics by ComiXology, the leading iPhone application for buying and reading comics, already has an interface for the bigger iPad screen in development."~newsarama

"In theory, the iPad, and the slew of alternatives in the pipes, has a lot of potential for changing the comic book industry. Currently, there are multiple comic book related apps available for the iPhone that can be ported over to the iPad at launch. These include the likes of comiXology and Robot Comics, among others."~weeklycrisis

"Now that we’ve all seen the iPad and debated its design merits, let’s cut to the chase: This thing will rise or fall on content. If Steve Jobs can get a bunch of cool books and apps on the thing, we’ll want one. If not, we won’t. Where will His Steveness get some of those books? I say the same place he’s gotten so many movies and TV shows for iTunes in the past: Disney."~brainstormtech

"One of the key features of the new Apple iPad is the introduction of Apple's new iBooks application, which promises to be both an e-book reader and a storefront for digital books. This obviously leads to a comparison between the iPad and that other famous e-book reader, the Amazon Kindle. But it seems to me that the only real advantage the iPad might have over the Kindle is that it's in color, which doesn't make much of a difference with simple black-and-white text. But what about books that depend on color, art, and illustration? Indeed, what about graphic novels and comic books? Is the iPad the perfect platform for digital comics?"~crave

COMICS: Making

We've covered different" digital tools", available now here & here, that should be known to any up and coming comic book creator. With the iPad on the way here are a few more that could, hypothetically (we don't have an iPad to test our theory), aid you in creating, marketing, & delivering comics on the iPad from start to finish:

Web analytics is important to keep track of your websites. ClickMeter is a link tracking tool that focuses on tracking links for your website so that you can monitor relevant clicks. This app quickly sees which of your links are more efficient in driving incoming traffic to your site.

Creating your own video or photo slideshow is a cool way to share your pictures with friends, family, readers, fans, and sponsors. Flixtime is a web app that lets you create videos from photos in just three easy steps. All you need is to choose your photos, upload a tune, then click render to create your video.

There are a number of excellent image editors online and Picmeleo is no different when it comes to ease-of-use and number of features. It is a light-weight photo editor that lets you crop and scale images, adjust color and brightness and apply various filters.

COMICS: Devices

The iPad isn't the only name in the game. There are lots of tablets, some out now, some slated to come out this year, others still in development. The "wordle" above names but a few of them. We've blogged about upcoming tablets here & here on the FBU before. You really can't scan the internet without running into it.

"The Apple iPad cat is officially out of its bag, but it’s not going to be the only tablet game in town. There are a number of other devices out there..."~mashable

WIRED:"We’d be naive to think manufacturers were twiddling their thumbs while Apple pimps out its iPad. Sure enough, there could be as many as 50 tablet devices from competing..."~wired

Really the only question unanswered is when and how are DC going to get in the Digital Comics game? Do any of you have any ideas or theories? What about thoughts regarding comics on a "pad" or "slate"? Will the bigger screen enable more of you to enjoy comics digitally?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good Designs vs Bad Designs

There is a very simple rule in animation...

More lines = More difficult/time consuming to animate

Less lines = Less difficult/time consuming to animate

Simple isn't it??

"More lines" could be replaced in the equation by "more shapes" or "more details".

But to keep the discussion simple... lets agree to use "more lines" in the conversation.

So animating designs with "more lines" will mean more resources needed to animate those designs.

More time.

More manpower.

And ultimately.... more money.

If cost is not an object...  knock yourself out and make your designs as complex and detailed as you wish.

But sadly for most projects.... that is rarely the case.

As time goes by... resources are more and more limited to make animated project.

You are expected on a production to do more and more with less money and less people then the project before.

 And that very reason is one more reason why it drives me crazy that Bruce Timm and his gang keep on redesigning their characters.

They had developed through the years a style that was beautifully streamlined, that was made up of "less line", that was perfect for animation.

But for their direct to DVD projects... they keep on going for designs with "more lines".

They keep on doing the same mistakes that Marvel did with their animated projects in the 90s.

The Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a perfect example of that. 

And what puzzles me is that Bruce Timm is even aware of all the mistakes that Marvel did.

To quote him from Comicology issue #1:
"But I don't want to build myself up by slamming anybody else, but they (Marvel) make some really wrong creative choices on the shows, everything from the art direction to the voice casting."
So it drives me even crazier knowing this to see the Timm gang repeat the same mistakes.

But I understand that it does not all depend on Timm. They have at least half a dozen producers who seem to want to have a say in the creative process. Listen to the commentaries of the JL: New Frontier DVD movie... you will see a perfect example of that.

And that is without counting the various suits in the Warner and DC offices that most likely do try to also have a say in the process.

For years... the Timm style was a perfect example of a style with "less lines". It was a perfect example of the right way to do animation.

The Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is a perfect example of "more lines" that makes the animators job next to impossible to do properly. It is a perfect example of the wrong way to do animation.

And the crazy part is that it is essentially the same people.

The JL: Crisis on 2 Earths fall somewhere in between.

Then again... I am sure that some people look at the Superman/Batman: Public Enemies DVD and think that it is well made.

I often see people who will look at low end animation production and think that it is well animated.

I foolishly sometimes try to give them a basic animation course to try to explain some of why I think it is poorly animated. ;)

But too often it is a futile exercise.

It is like showing someone a blue wall and asking them what color they are seeing. If they answer you that it is a green wall.... not much you can do to explain to them that what they see is not "green".... it's "blue".

Essentially... if they cannot see it for themselves.... not much you can do to make them see it.

But being a foolish fool... I sometimes try nonetheless to help people see the "blue wall". ;)

But enough design blogs for now.... I am starting to sound like a broken record. ;)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plastic Man and Phantom Lady

Golden Age Comics UKTwo things I'd like bring to your attention today. The first is one many of you may be familiar with already, but faithful reader/commenter GACN has suggested I remind everyone that the greatest source of free digitial Golden Age comics on the internet is GoldenAgeComics.co.uk.

Not only can you find an amazing wealth of public domain comics at GAUK, but the messageboards are populated by the nicest fans of Golden Age comics you are ever gonna meet!

The other thing I wanted to alert Golden Age Comic fans to is the recently published Marvel comic The Twelve: Spearhead. This comic features some familiar faces from both the Golden Age and the Bronze Age.

While it induldges in a fair amount of Ultimate Universe styled Ultraviolence, it has quite a number of nice personal moments among the characters. Best of all, it's a self contained story (what a freaking brilliant idea - why isn't this done more often?)

I'll be honest, I wasn't a real fan of some of the JMS The Twelve mini-series. Some of it was interesting, but I find his take on modernizing Golden Age heroes seemed to follow the standard procedure of making them more grim and gritty - you get the feeling that if JMS had been the writer on M.A.S.H. then every episode would have been exactly like the series finale episode.
I'm not opposed to bleak stories but a steady diet of them starts to get boring.

Well, normally, all this would be introductory build up to today's free comics which would be related somehow. No chance on that as the Marvel stuff is not in public domain. However, I do have some awesome new scans I recently found. I think credit for these scans goes to either flatterman or X_Shadow, but I'm not entirely sure (the sfv file didn't have a lot of information in it...) If you know the original scanner of these issues, please drop me a line or post a comment.

[ Plastic Man 24 ]

[ Phantom Lady 01 - Ajax version ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lost Universe: The Dark Avenger

This article is another one of Caine's explorations into the Lost Universes of defunct companies. You can read other Lost Universe articles here. - Jim

A few weeks ago we narrowed in on the Comics Boom and focused on the PATRIOT archetype. With the Patriot we discovered that only one of the LOST UNIVERSE publishers had really attempted to publish a book staring a character wearing the Stars & Stripes (or other flags). Today we'll be looking at THE DARK AVENGER and, with but a few exceptions, the phenomenon is nearly opposite of that of the Patriot. Nearly ALL of the LOST UNIVERSE publishers put out comic books starting Dark Avenger type characters.

The characters within the Dark Avenger archetype all take on different styles (some using tech, others relying only on their wits, some have powers or an intense "gimmick"), which is another near direct opposite from The Patriot archetype (the patriot characters were much more alike than dislike) as nearly all of the patriot character's powers were 'internal' and not really shown to the readers (strength, stamina, invulnerability) contrasting those Dark Avenger characters who did have powers. While their methods may be very different, the motivations of the majority of the Dark Avengers characters are all very similar as they feel the need to take the law (or justice) into their own hands due to the lack of it's presences in their life.

Some do it really just once, while others adopt it as a lifestyle and continue on in the form of a crusade...

For the purposes of this article we'll remove both Tekno & CrossGen from our list of LOST UNIVERSE publishers as both publishers took a unique approach when considering what titles to produce and how they would manage themselves as a comic book publishing company.Neither of them have a real strong Dark Avenger type character that stands out, as neither of them were looking to deliver 'standard' comics to the fans.

Of course, all of the Dark Avenger type characters owe (at least a little something) to those who came before them such as; The Phantom, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, The Spider, The Avenger, Zorro, and more...


The Nightman may be one of the more pure distillations of the archetype that's been published in quite some time (the comic version, not the televisions version). Johny Domino awakens from an accident with a peculiar type of brain damage that now allows him to "hear" evil thoughts (which he can't prove even exist without sounding crazy him self) motivating him to don a costume and prevent those evil actions from ever taking place. The book it self read like a 'year one' tale that showed Johny Domino growing into and adapting his Nightman persona.


A bit closer to 'The Spider', X was shrouded in mystery. His intentions were never quite clear, as he'd save a man on one page, only to shove a man out a window to his death on another. He tended to 'mark' his victims (sometimes their picture, a mirror that they use, or even their face) in the form of an X. X, whose law is: that one mark means a warning, the second one death, takes on a collection of business, law, mob, assassins and politics. X is the kind of character, who's creation was drawn from many other sources (all good ones), X is a bit Wolverine, The Punisher, Batman and more all rolled into one.


Tales of the Green Hornet. While there have been many adaptions and versions of the Green Hornet this is one is a Dark Avenging 'pulp' character through and through going back farther than most on this list. For the uninitiated The Green Hornet is newspaper man Britt Reid, along with his trusted driver/side kick Kato, the two fight crime and injustice as the Green Hornet & Kato.


Born in America, Alexis Devin was raised in Japan, and trained in the arts of ninjitsu from the age of 6. She studied intensely, not to be a mercenary killer, but to force her young body stricken with polio, back to life. As she grew she dreamed not of adventure and intrigue, but of a simple, full life. One day those dreams were shattered. Alexis found herself caught in the centre of a murderous power struggle between the lords of Japan's underworld, the mighty Yakuza. Forced to fight for her life, she became Whisper.


It is Los Angeles, 1938, and the world hovers on the brink of war. Famous adventurer and scientist, Clark "Doc" Savage Jr., builds a one-man jet pack, which will allow a man to fly. Before it can be properly tested, the prototype is stolen by enemy agents. With the authorities in hot pursuit, they are forced to hide the pack in an airfield hanger, where it is discovered by daredevil pilot Cliff Secord. Not knowing its origin, Cliff adopts the identity of the Rocketeer. He acquits himself so well against the Nazi spies that when Doc Savage finally tracks him down, he allows Cliff to keep the device, feeling he has earned it and can continue to do good in the world with it.

Have a great weekend,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Comics on Windows 7 Series Phones?

Recently, Microsoft announced that they were getting (back) into the mobile phone business in a big way with the introduction (read - replatforming) of their Windows Phone 7 Series phones. Yesterday on Engadget, many of the partners for this new platform were presented (Pandora, Netflix, Shazam...).

Among the screenshots was this one of what is apparently a Digital Comics reading application showing scenes from Civil War.

At this moment, we are unsure if this is an existing digital comics app (ported from the iPhone) or if this is something Microsoft created wholly on its own.

UPDATE - the app appears to be developed by Graphic.Ly whose Digital Comic viewing application has been discussed by Caine here before...

From NewsFactor

Another new app designed for Graphic.ly -- a community for purchasing and discussing comic books -- will enable consumers to buy digital comics and view them on a Windows 7 laptop or carry them around in their pockets on a Windows 7 phone. The app includes a hardware -accelerated deep zoom that can deliver high-resolution imagery over low bandwidth. So whenever the user elects to pan in on a comic graphic, deep zoom is able to pull down the right resolution.

Interesting - so Graphic.Ly is getting quite a jump on this aren't they?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Hangman

Last weeks discussion of DC Entertainments revival of the Red Circle (and the First Wave version of Doc Savage) comics prompted a few interesting comments from various people via email. While emailing back and forth on a fantasy book review I wrote for the From the Sorcerer's Skull blog run by FBU contributor Trey Causey, Trey had this to say about DC's motivations...

I wonder if things like the Red Circle revival and the whatever the series is (or was) about the Marvel golden age folks serve two purposes. 1) It keeps trademarks up; 2) It garners the possibility of a hit with a "new" character--the beauty of that new character being that they aren't really new and so already may have a small, but nonetheless existent, fanbase.

There is a segment of the comic book buying public you are guaranteed to sell a first issue of an old character revival to, who won't necessarily buy a new character first issue. Hell, you and I may meet that description.

I think Trey is right as to what is prompting DC to publish such comics, but in the end, these attempts, unless backed up with a good story, will only result in readers like me getting wary of revival attempts.

However poster GACN says that two of the Red Circle comics are worth checking out...

I do encourage people to pick up The Web. Solid writing and art, and The Hangman back up is worth the book.

With that in mind, I thought I would share two issues of the Golden Age MLJ Hangman today.


Hangman 01


Hangman 02

- Enjoy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Flashback Universe Examines: Truly Digital Comics

Did you know there are over 50 'slates' or 'pads' scheduled to come out this year? It's true, you can read all about them here. 2011 or maybe more like 2012 looks to be a good year to really be able to view comic books digitally anytime anywhere. Will there be systems in place to get those comics to you? Will they be simple? Will they be easy? Will they be affordable? You can rest assured that we here at the FBU will bring you the answers to those questions as soon as we discover them. Until then we thought you might be interested in learning a bit about a few fully digital comic books that have all ready been made. The kinds of comics that would have been perfect to release simultaneously in print and digitally...if there'd been 'slates' or 'pads' out before 2010 that is.

TODAY WE'LL LOOK AT: "BATMAN: Digital Justice"
Published by DC in 1990 (in multiple formats), Batman Digital Justice was written by Pepe Moreno & Doug Murray with fully rendered digital art by Pepe Moreno & Bill Fingerman.

20 years after it's release Batman Digital Justice reads like a franchise reboot. Much like Batman Begins, Batman Digital Justice takes all of the 'standard' pieces of the Batman mythos and reworks them into something 'new' while still remaining recognizable to the long term hard core fans.

"The book is set in a future Gotham City "at the end of the next century," (the 21st) dominated by high technology, particularly computer networks and their human controllers, long after the original Batman has died. The story revolves around James Gordon,Gotham City Police Department detective and grandson of Commissioner James Gordon, who takes on the identity of the Batman to free the city from a sentient computer virus crafted by the Joker, also now long dead, and to avenge the death of his partner Lena Schwartz."~wikipedia.org

The story builds nicely, and without giving too much away or spoiling the plot, the book does a very nice job setting up the supporting cast: including a new side kick, as well as a feline inspired costumed persona out for her share of New Gotham's digital glory, and an appearance by one of Batman's famous nemesis.

The art on Batman Digital Justice holds up! The im ages on each panel & page are clear and concise with little in the way of pixelation. Not only is it clean and easy to read, one might classify it as 'stylish' aimed at a particular audience (that cover image being the clearest example) that manages to hit it's mark extremely well. At the time, it was considered "cutting edge" in nearly every way. Here is a quote from inside the book:

"State of the art" sure ain't what it used to be. These days, by the time something that's the state of the art hits the streets, it's already obsolete. That's an overwhelming change for the comic art medium. Between 1937, when the first all-original comic book came out, and the release of the first computer-generated comic in 1984, the tools used in the creation of comic art remained fairly stagnant. That all changed with the introduction of the first affordable graphics-oriented computer. All of a sudden, we had a machine that could do anything. Most miraculously, that bottomless box of microchips and cathode rays has allowed our medium to grow — from the standpoint of technology — more in the ensuing five years than it did in the preceding forty-seven. At that time, I was the editor of a Midwest comic book company when a couple of old friends, Peter Gillis and Mike Saenz, showed me some rough printouts of a story that was produced entirely on a 128K Apple Macintosh computer, using but one disk drive. The artwork was chunky and brittle: it looked like some amphetamine addict had been given a box of zip-a-tone that suffered from a glandular disease. But the look was totally unique to comics. Within several months, we refined the look and the resulting effort — SHATTER — was one of the best¬selling comics of the year. It completely astonished the folks over at Apple Computer, Inc., who never perceived such a use for their hardware.

We've come a long way in the past five years: the book you are now holding was produced on a Macintosh computer that has 64 times the internal memory, 400 times the storage capacity, about 8 times the speed, and hundreds of software packages. More important, DIGITAL JUSTICE takes advantage of different devices that, five years ago, were barely dreamed of for the home or studio: computer-aided design, 3-D imaging programs, high-resolution and direct-to-film printers, graphics scanners, and color. A whole lot of color. In fact, there's the potential for more than 16 million colors.

The technology used to create DIGITAL JUSTICE is now 20 years old, and 20 years of advances in similar technology (applied more to other industries such as Video Games & Animation granted) have made comics all the better for it.

Batman Digital Justice uses a modified square panel grid on it's pages that lend them selves nicely to a cinematic feel (which was what I'm sure they were going for at the time) that would work beautifully in the Graphic.ly comic reader now.

As an added bonus this book does a fair amount of accurate predictions to the Batman's future:

Batman Beyond was released in 1999 and while one might guess that Batman Digital Justice's "Batcraft" was 'borrowed' from Blade Runner, the next logical assumption would be that Beyond borrowed from this book.

If you're interested & feel as if you local comic shop might not be able to get their hands on it you can purchase it from AMAZON & MILE HIGH COMICS. Then again, who knows, this would be the perfect book to help kick of DC's Digital Comics initiative. They do have one don't they?

Have a nice weekend,


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Constantly Changing Designs

There are many reasons that lead for a design to be changed.

Having a new designer or a new director on a project that looks at the earlier designs thinking... "Man... those sucks... I will fix/improve those crappy designs".

There is also the temptation that with new designs... you can actually make and sell new toys based on them new designs.

And heck... there is even just the fact that when a show lasts for many years/seasons... it will have evolved so that by the end of the show... the look of the show is much much different then it was in the early years.

But sometimes... although I would be tempted to say wayyy too often.... the changes are done.... just because.

You can see it in movies.

Did anyone even notice that in Batman Returns... Michael Keaton is wearing a new Batman suit??

Somewhere between the first and second Batman movie... someone thought "Hey! Let's redesign Batman's costume".

I doubt that there are many people who thought when they saw Batman Returns... " Wow!! The Bat-suit is so much better". Odds are that most people did not even notice the change.

Sure someone like me cannot help but notice such things... but I work in animation. It is part of my job to see/spot such things. But to the untrained eye... there most likely is no difference between both Bat-suits.

The same with Spider-man.

They HAD to redesign Spider-man for Spider-man 2... and in the end... all they did was change the fabric somewhat and change slightly the shade of blue so that it would be just a little darker.

Again, I would be curious to hold a survey and see how many people have even spotted the differences. The changes are so minimal.... that it was a complete waste of resources if you ask me.

But sadly.... a lot of artists are obsessive compulsive.

They will give a HUGE importance to details that do not matter to ANYONE else in the multiverse.

Pretty much NO ONE noticed the different shade of blue of Spidey's suit in Spider-man 2. But someone... somewhere... thought it was important to redesign the suit. To waste a truckload of ressources just to get a barely perceptive change in the colors of the suit.

And that is done wayyyy too often.

What does it even matter??

Well the design process can be time consuming and can eat up a lot of your ressources on a project. So whatever ressources you spend on fixing what isn't broken is not used on something more importent.

For example, the money/time/manpower used to redesign the characters on Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths could have been used on improving the storyboard that much more. Or to give the animators more time to do their job properly.

But because some ressources are wasted fixng what already works.... you end up with less ressources to do what is really needed.

You end up shooting yourself in the foot in my book.

Also... through years of trials and errors... the "Timm gang" had come up with a great style that worked beautifully in animation. They had found a way to streamline the designs in such a way, that it allowed the animators to do a fantastic job. It allowed for the animators to do the best job the could possibly do.

But by constantly going back to those more complex designs... to designs that aren't streamlined for animation... that is doubly true in the case of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies... they are making the animators' job that much harder.

Once again shooting themselves in the foot.

Although... there are some like Caine, who enjoy seeing the same old characters, but with a new look.

Caine: I LIKE the fact that each Warner animated movie can look different from the previous one. I like that Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, & The Flash can all be voiced by different actors each time, and have different looks. I look forward to the slightly different interpretations actually.

One of the reasons for going with a diferent interpretation is the hope that it might attract new fans.... without losing too many of the old fans.

Lets assume that there are 100,000 JLU fans out there who watched the show on TV (not the actual numbers... and I am pretty sure that there are a lot more JLU fans then that). I can tell you that the bean counters at the studio probably ran some figures and calculated that only a certain number of those JLU fan would actually buy a DVD movie done in the JLU style... lets say 25%... so in this case 25 000.

So one of the reasons for a new look... for new designs... is in the hope of increasing those numbers.

Some people in the studio might be thinking that a new look might attract potential new buyers. That if they use the JLU style.... they will be stuck with just 25 000 copies sold. But that with a NEW look... they might drastically increase that number without loosing too many of the old viewers.

So in essence... they try to keep it "somewhat" looking like the JLU cartoon in order to keep the JLU fans on board.... but give the designs a new look to try to attract new people.

Sometimes it works... sometimes it fails miserably.

Did it work with the Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths DVD??

No idea.

I don't have a clue as to how many copies it may have sold. Although it did "seem" to sell fairly well.... but not as well as lets say Green Lantern; First Flight. First Flight was pretty much sold out in the stores in my area in the first few days of it's release... although it may just be that stores under-ordered it since it did not have Superman or Batman in it. Maybe they ordered a lot more Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths because it has the big two in it?? I am curious about wether the Superman/Batman; Public Ennemies DVD sold well or not??

Another FBU reader mentions;

Sea-of-Green: I do like the different art styles -- it's no different from seeing different art styles in the comics. I DO take issue with changing the voices though -- unless it's because those actors aren't always available."

I would agree with you.... if it had been done by people other then the "Timm gang".

When they made "The Batman".... I did not mind the change since it was done by different people... by a different crew. But here we are talking about the same people who made what many call the "Timm-verse".

Imagine if one morning... Alex Ross (just an example... you can put instead the name of your favorite artist) decided... "I will no longer draw like Alex Ross... I will draw like... Rob Liefeld (again... you can put the name of any other artist instead)".

If you are a fan of Liefeld... you might welcome such change. But if not.... I am pretty sure that you would not be very happy.

So in short... would you ask Alex Ross to draw like someone else?? or Mignola?? or Art Adams?? or Alan Davis?? or Brian Hitch?? or any other artist that you might like.

That is how it feels to me with these constant redesigns by the "Timm gang".

When I see the "Timm gang" try to change their style from project to project... I can't help but be at least a little dissapointed.

For years.... we in the animation industry have been holding up what the "Timm gang" have done as an example of the right way to do things. We kept on thinking how "smart" they were to come up with a style that was steamlined in such a way, that it made perfect sense for animation.

But now... since them direct to DVD movies... people in animation are starting to think that maybe it was dumb just luck after all. That maybe it was not so much them being "smart", them making the right decisions, but just various circumstances that happened by accident that led to them streamlining their designs in such a way. That now... they are starting to make the wrong decisions when making them direct to DVD movies.

They used to be wayy ahead of the curve with their animated projects.... but now... they are close to being down on the same level with what Marvel is doing with their direct to DVD movies. Even some of Marvel's best efforts was not even close to what the "Timm gang" did with JLU.... but now??

I will let you be the judges of that.

We also got a comment from another FBU reader;

Flameape: I think the reason the characters get re-designed is simply to avoid having any continuity to adhere to. These films are pretty clearly designed as stand-alones- anyone who doesn't even know what the storylines of the characters can easily get into the films and put them aside. Reason 2 for the re-designs? Toy sales. Let's be honest, if DC makes ANY alteration to a character it always ends up being part of some new edition toy line. Just look at the toy section of your favorite comics shop. It's ridiculous, but clearly sells merchandise, folks! Gotta love it.

GREAT comment.

Let's split this comment into two parts, continuity, and toy sales;

A) Continuity

What they did in the Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths DVD actually still works within the Justice League Unlimited continuity.

Heck they could have used John Stewart as Green Lantern. There is nothing that really required it to be Hal Jordan. And if they REALLY wanted to use Hal Jordan to fit within regular DC continuity.... or any other reasons... they still could do so without the need of a NEW continuity. There are 3400 Green lanterns in the Corps after all. So no need of a new continuity just to replace John Stewart by Hal Jordan.

The EVIL Lex Luthor still could have been in prison.

The JLU could have been fixing/renovating the satellite.

Batman could have still called other heroes/JLU members for help.

Nothing in this movie really REQUIRED a new contnuity.

The only reason behind that is....


Essentially... no reason at all.

B) Toy Sales

Animated TV series are essentially half hour advertisements for the toy line or the merchandising of the series itself.

Sad.. but that is essentially the REAL reason why an animated series is made.

That is usually where the REAL money for an animated series is.

Sure there are exceptions to that.

A show like the Simpsons does make some REAL money from the HUGE ratings they are having. But as I said... that IS the exception.

That is why a show like Batman Beyond was cancelled.

Although it had some good ratings and reviews... the toys/merchandinsing were not selling.

That is why I supect the first season of Justice League feels like watching old episodes of the SuperFriends sometimes.

I suspect that they were hoping to attract a yourger audience and were hoping that it would make them sell more toys.

But like many producers... they failed to realise who their audience was. That it was an older audience watching their shows. But they seem to have realised their mistake with the second season of Justice League and made their shows/stories with an older audience in mind.

And by season 3, they changed the formula of the show again by making it Justice League Unlimited and adding a truckload of new characters to the show... most likely to be able to make a truckload of new action figures... so essentially... trying to have more toys to sell.

I doubt that it really work since.... again... the show was cancelled.

So for a TV show.... toys/merchandising are important since it is an important source of revenues.

The toy sales... in addition to ratings... are what keeps a TV show being produced.

Not so true with movies

Although there are exceptions.... the revenues for these DVD movies are the DVD sales themselves.

And odds are... since DC seems to want to make stand alone movies.... odds are that unless the DVD sales are spectacular.... there will most likely not be any sequels per say.

No word on a possible sequel for First Flight or Public Ennemies or any other of their DVD movies. DC seems set on making ONE movie, then moving on to a new project.

Odds are that even if they make another Justice League DVD movie... it will have nothing to do with the Crisis on 2 Earths DVD. It will probably be once more new designs and a new continuity anyway.

So toy sales don't really matter in this case.

DVD sales is the real factor here.... and DC seems set into making stand alone movies anyway.

So even that does not really matter anyway.

The Crisis on 2 Earths DVD was most likely a one shot thing to simply use a JLU script that was already written and paid for.

Although I don't have all the answers, so I could be mistaken.

But from my experience from all them years I have been working in animation, it still makes no sense to me why they could not use their already existing JLU style & designs... and use their JLU cast.....

But maybe that is just me. ;)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thoughts on DC's First Wave

In thinking about DC's recent revival of Doc Savage with the debut of First Wave that came out this month, I was comparing it to another golden age revamp by DC a few months back, and that is the MLJ/Red Circle revival by J. Michael Straczynski.

How did that one go? Well, it ranged from not so great to completely pedestrian.
Broken Frontier sums up my feelings on the whole project pretty well...

There is no doubt that J. Michael Straczynski is a capable writer, and the craft of this comic is no exception. The problem is that the story he is telling has been done so many times before, and the main character is not a real person yet, just a standard heroic type with little to set him apart, including the generic powers his suit provides him. It is difficult to guess what DC has in mind with this new Red Circle line, and what audience they are trying to tap into with it. Unless the other books are dramatically more interesting, I can't see the project catching any traction with today's superhero audiences. ~Broken Frontier

Saleswise, I'm betting the revival didn't work like DC wanted either...from the monthly sales numbers at The Beat...

08/2009: RC: Shield #1 -- 19,088 09/2009:
The Shield #1 -- 16,997 (-11.0%) 10/2009:
The Shield #2 -- 10,401 (-38.8%) 11/2009:
The Shield #3 -- 8,546 (-17.8%)

So looking at that - you gotta sort of question the wisdom of the First Wave launch. Albeit, Doc Savage is more famous than the MLJ heroes, but is there enough potential return on investment to warrant the type of advance promotions DC has spent money on this project? DC doesn't *own* Doc Savage, so what's the best they can get out of this? Another monthly title supported by Batman? If it's just a money grab with more culturally diverse versions of some DC heroes (ala an Indian Black Canary) then why not go all the way and reimagine the JLA with characters from all across the globe?

Then again, based on how DC is handling some of the properties right now, perhaps it's best if they didn't...

Anyway, in researching my numbers, I discovered The Mighty Crusaders Handbook which is a very cool site for fans of the MLJ heroes. Check it out!

Let's end this with today's free comics - two more issues of MLJ's Blue Ribbon Comics...

[ Blue Ribbon Comics 14 ]

[ Blue Ribbon Comics 15 ]

- Enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lost Universe Continued

Here at Flashback Universe we’d like to start discussing comics in the past tense, in addition to our present and future tense articles. To that end we’re continuing a new feature we’re calling Lost Universes. We’ll discuss properties, imprints, lines, and characters from comic book universes that are no longer actively putting out books such as Valiant, the Ultraverse, Comics Greatest World and others. More to the point, we’ll be examining what made those publishers and their lines interesting, unique and great...

Today we’ll continue our overview of some of the universes we’ll be covering over the course of this series, there will be more than we have space to list here today & please we encourage you to give us your feedback, leave us a comment, hit us up on twitter , or drop us an email and suggest any universes you’d really like us to cover.

With this post we’re discussing comic books being published in the eighties for the most part, in what we'll call "pre-comics boom"…

"The Comic Company was an American comic book publisher, headquartered in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Its best-known comics include the Robotech adaptations, the Jonny Quest continuation, and Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Discovered and Grendel. Once considered a major contender on the American market, Comico went into bankruptcy in 1990, although it continued to sporadically publish books until 1997."~wikipedia.org
NOTE: Comico has since established a webcomic site entitled CO2 that seems to be little more than host to scanned pages of its original print offerings as of this date.

What I find interesting about Comico is that, unlike the other publishers we've listed/discussed so far in this series, Comico was a very nondescript company by all accounts. Who's to say if this helped or hurt them but Comico was not the "biggest" publisher with 80M print runs, they didn't have a cohesive universe voted best "anything", they didn't have any television programs or movies based off of any of their original products (I don't think the Rocketeer counts here - that will be explained in another post) & they didn't hire huge named "out of the market" talent to come and create for them. What Comico did do, and do well, was pretty much a little bit of everything. They licensed properties, took advantage of the still new direct market to offer creator books that they could own, and allowed grittier storytelling without the seal of the comics code (just like all of the other publishers at the time).

"First Comics is an American comic-book publisher that was active from 1983–1991, known for titles like American Flagg!, Grimjack, Nexus, Badger, Dreadstar, and Jon Sable. Based in Evanston, Illinois, First Comics launched with a line-up of creators including Frank Brunner, Mike Grell, Howard Chaykin, Joe Staton, Steven Grant, Timothy Truman, and Jim Starlin." ~wikipedia.org

What was great about First Comics was how they gave the Marvel & DC fans exactly what they wanted: to bust out of the distilled pure archetypes & tropes that had been followed (nearly) to the letter for years up until then and really have fun with the characters and situations in a way that we hadn't really been able to do yet. There was real sex & violence in books like FLAGG & JON SABLE, seemingly real psychosis in Badger and a different kind of science fiction, yet to be really explored in comics, with NEXUS & DREADSTAR.

"Eclipse was an American comic book publisher, one of several independent publishers during the 1980s and early 1990s, that published such comics as; Scout, Skywolf, Zot!, The Rocketeer, The Hobbit, Espers, The DNAgents, Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters, & Airboy. Eclipse was known for its eclectic mix of titles and products. Many noteworthy creators got their start or did early work there, including Chuck Austen, Donna Barr, Dan Brereton, Chuck Dixon, James Hudnall, Scott McCloud, Peter Milligan, Tim Truman, and Chris Ware. Veterans published by Eclipse include Steve Englehart, Don McGregor, Gene Colan and Mark Evanier." ~wikipedia.org

Much the way Chaos! had a large hand in the creation of another theme that took place in the "Comics Boom" (bad girls) Eclipse ushered in the first Graphic Novel to comic book shops in the direct market and largely created non-sports inspired trading cards. With such a long list of top notch creators and comics Eclipse truly did have something for everyone amongst their offerings. So much so that Eclipse may need a post all on it's own.

Pacific Comics
"Pacific Comics was an independent comic book publisher that flourished from 1981-1984. It was also a chain of comics shops and a distributor. It began out of a San Diego, California, comic book shop owned by brothers & really became the template for what Image comics would become. Pacific published such titles as; Starslayer, The Rocketeer, Groo, Elrick & characters created by Jack Kirby."~wikipedia.org

Noticing a pattern? How many publishing companies actually published The Rocketeer, Flagg, & Starslayer anyway (that's an entire post by it self)? As the comic book industry began cresting out of the 80's and into the 90's one element, more than any other, helped usher in the "Comics Boom" and that was distribution to a Direct Market of comic book fans. This was a fact that: Pacific, First, Now, and a few others capitalized on right away atracting known creators from larger mainstream publishing companies to come and create comics for them where the comics code wouldn't come into play and ownership of the "rights" would. Creators would own their characters and situations.

What was interesting about Pacific was that they were simply looking for more comics to put on the shelves of the comic book stores they'd opened. Unable to find enough for their tastes they began soliciting creators to make comics directly for them all the while juggling both a "publishing" arm with a "distribution" arm that was more than likely the biggest contributor to their demise which saw creators (who owned their creations) exporting their books to other publishers who weren't so intertwined in the industry once the strength of the distribution arm came into question. Much like a bank that goes under because everyone was afraid they would & began pulling their money out due to that fear (regardless of whether they would have really gone under or not) Pacific's publishing reign came to an end as creators from the publishing arm fled the distribution arm for fear of it's collapse.

Have a nice weekend,


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pierre Reviews Crisis on Two Earths

Let's start with the best part...

The Spectre short was AWESOME!!!

Not only did it have an Aparo feel to it, but the animation was VERY strong.

If you get the 2 disks edition with the Spectre short story... do yourself a favor and watch the Spectre short AFTER watching the Justice League story.

A co-worker did the mistake of watching the Spectre first... and now he has a tough time watching the Justice League story.

Not that the Justice League part is that bad.... but it pales in comparison to the Spectre one.

But I will get back to that last one later on.

What about the Justice League: Crisis on 2 Earths??

It was good.

In my book it was about close to being as good as the New Frontier movie. Close... but not quite.

The opening credits were pretty cool.

The animation was generally good. And it even was great in a few places. But it also made me cringe in a few places.

Some of the designs were pretty cool, like Ultraman or SuperWoman... but also some of them made me cringe whenever I would see them... like Power Ring, Johnny Quick or Wonder Woman.

Although the EVIL Black Lightning was AWESOME. AWESOME I SAYS!!! And I nearly pissed in my pants when I saw the EVIL Martian Manhunter.

One of the fun part of that movie was that it had a lot of fun cameos. After the movie... you are still thinking about who was who in some cases.

As for the voice acting.... James Wood was AWESOME!! The best part by FAR of the cast. Although SuperWoman was not bad too. But the worst of the worst HAD to be Batman. It HAD to be. The voice acting for Batman was at best very VERY weak.

Which drives me nuts when I think that they HAVE the perfect cast for these characters to begin with... but insist on re-inventing the wheel with each new projects and casting new people for no other reason then... because.... makes no bit of sense.

And I could go on and on about how it drives me nuts how they keep on re-designing the characters all the time... but I will keep that for my next blog.

Overall... it was not a bad movie. It was mostly fun to watch... but it was nowhere near as good as some of the best JLU episodes. The "Task Force X" or any of the "Black Canary" episodes were way stronger then this.

But it IS much better then pretty much any episodes of the first JL season.

And you even get 2 good JL episodes on disk 2.

You also get a "preview" of Batman; Under the Red Hood.... Which isn't much. You essentially get some storyboard panels... some location/character designs... and the various producers/creators trying to hype up their project. Trying to convince you that this will be amazing, that this will be the best Batman movie ever.

But in my book.... they failed miserably at convincing me to try out that next project. So I will pass on it.

Although they have also showed us some Jim Aparo artwork from his days when he was pencilling the Batman comic.... which was pretty much the only good part of the "preview" for me.

But it may just be me.

And also... you get the AWESOME Spectre short. Remember... I mentioned early on how I would get back to this.

For the Spectre short... they have gone back to what I consider the BEST Spectre ever... the Spectre as he was done when Jim Aparo was drawing it. Now that IS the ultimate Spectre to me.

And the short movie did a GREAT job in capturing the essence and the feel of that period.

And they avoided the BIGGEST mistake that was made when they made the Superman/Batman Public Enemies DVD movie. In Superman/Batman, they tried to draw the project in the style of Ed McGuiness... and they not only failed miserably... but it made the animators job impossible by doing so.

But for the Spectre... they avoided that mistake.

They did not try to draw like Jim Aparo... but they managed to capture the ESSENCE... the FEEL of Jim Aparo's work. And it worked great. The result was breathtaking.

Although.... I am surprised that there wasn't much talk about the Spectre short on the various comics forums.

Oh well.

So in short... is it worth buying the JL; Crisis on 2 Earths DVD??

The answer is......

YES!!! (As long as you buy the two disc edition...)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mister Crimson - The Movie?

A few months ago, I was contacted by Ken Cosentino, a filmmaker in New York. Ken and his film crew were gearing up to produce a movie for Sundance 2011, but they ran into a little snag.

The main character in their movie was called Mister Crimson.

Ken contacted me, and asked if it would be okay to use the name in the movie. My initial reaction was one of caution, but and after various emails back and forth with Seth and Diego, it was decided that real no harm would be done by Ken's group using the name in the film, and if anything, the two properties would most likely help each other.

However, in the meantime, Ken and company decided to rename their main character Crimson, so as to make things easier all the way around.

Below are some photos and art from what *could* have been a Mister Crimson movie!

Movie version of Crimson logo

Concept sketch from the movie
The crew working on fight choreography for the movie.

I'll present more updates and images as the movie progresses.

- Jim


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