Thanks for popping by and checking out my weekly Monday Demythify column.
I also have some news for you. This past weekend saw the debut of my new weekly weekend column for Bleeding Cool called Comics Realism. Check it out!
Now your weekend AND Monday comics appetite can be satiated.
In this week’s Demythify, I talk about sci-fi plus the current DC Comics New 52 and Marvel Now’s space heroes… masquerade.
I am huge fan of select science fiction properties. I do still read select Star Trek novels at Simon and Schuster and Star Wars prose from Del Rey.
I also read Philip K. Dick back in the day; a little book called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” that inspired the Harrison Ford 1980’s cult classic film Blade Runner.
The recent Battlestar Galactica TV series was also a sci-fi fave of mine; not surprising perhaps since that future grittiness came in part from the creative mind of a DS9 creator.
There’s also my 40 year love affair with the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman; although not exactly sure that counts as sci-fi.
Anyhow, as you can see, I don’t just embrace capes and cowls comics; the sci-fi genre is also close to my heart…. as are mystery and gumshoe prose, but perhaps that topic is for another column.
Staying with prose, I’m particularly a fan of Deep Space Nine and am intrigued by this summer’s multi-part Star Trek novel series that will see it cross-over with Star Trek The Next Generation in a series called “The Fall“.
I’m also eager to read the novel that bridges Obi Wan Kenobi’s life story between Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Kenobi comes out this summer.
So, prose can fill in important moments between films and extend the life of TV shows after they wrap up on the air. The final frontiers of Star Wars and Star Trek are vast.
I’m also jazzed about the new Star Trek Into Darkness film and have thought that IDW has done a great job with Trek comics in the last few years. Their previous movie prequels have added a layer of depth to the previous film and the current Star Trek Countdown to Darkness movie prequel mini-series was intriguing.
Dark Horse also does some interesting Star Wars comics; I was particularly fan of the recent Star Wars Darth Maul: Death Sentence mini that featured, naturally, Darth Maul alongside his brother Savage Opress during the Clone Wars; yes AFTER Maul’s supposed death in the first prequel movie. Ah, you haven’t been watching the Star Wars The Clone Wars TV series, have you?
Dynamite Comics has also done some interesting Bionic Man and Bionic Woman comics although, to be fair, the art didn’t and doesn’t live up to the script.
In terms of fresh new sci-fi comics, Image Comics brings us Non-Humans; a post apocalyptic future where a virus brings us a world were creepy doll-human and actual humans live side-by-side, but not in harmony; did I say creepy yet?
So, as you can see some sci-fi comics are entertaining and even profitable for the publishers involved.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case at the Big Two comics publishers. Pure sci-fi doesn’t seem to sell, despite efforts by the publishers.
DC & Marvel SCI-FI Past
The success of sci-fi at the Big Two publishers have been mixed over the years.
When Jack “The King” Kirby moved from Marvel to DC Comics in the 1970’s, he created one of the most beloved sci-fi pockets of the DC Universe: the Fourth World. However, despite covering four series (The Forever People, Mister Miracle, New Gods, and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen) the sci-fi experiment lasted 59 issues between 1970 and 1973. The material was a bit headier than readers expected. However, its influence was not forgotten as it was a major part of the DC’s mid-1980’s Super Powers toy-line tie-in comics and their characters loomed largers in the 1986 Legends event series by John Ostrander and John Byrne.
In the 1980’s DC did well with its “Invasion!” mini-series that spun off classics like L.E.G.I.O.N.; through the 1980’s and in his own 1990’s books, Lobo rode roughshod over the DC Universe.
The Legion of Super-Heroes, DC’s teen heroes of the 30th and now 31rst centuries have had mixed success since the Silver Age. After a 20’ish issue run, Supergirl took over their title in the late 1960’s, they toiled as back-ups and in the mid-1970’s became co-stars of Superboy’s book; the 1980’s and 1990’s saw so many reboots and new interpretations of the characters DC may have actually damaged the property long-term despite the clean-up attempt of 2008’s Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds by Geoff Johns and George Perez.
There have been great creators working on the LOSH since the Silver Age, but the book today is not in the Top 10 of DC New 52 comic book sales.
Now, before you lambaste me and tell of the success of the Green Lantern family of books, ask yourself how sci-fi those titles really are? Do they really tell sci-fi stories or cape and cowl tales in spaces? I would argue the latter.
The early-mid 1990’s also saw tremendous sales success of their Infinity trilogy (Gauntlet, War and Crusade) plus the spin-off series like Warlock and the Infinity Watch.
During the same timeframe, we also had an interesting adventure in 1991 that saw the X-Men venture into space and having a pretty cool adventure that also covered the milestone issue of Uncanny X-Men #275 (remember that gorgeous Jim Lee drawn gatefold cover?).
Plus Marvel UK had a pretty cool Death’s Head II series, but UK didn’t last long.
Even with that Infinity, X, and early UK success, sci-fi comics weren’t sustained at Marvel.
More recently, despite really enjoying Marvel Comics playing with Cyclops surprise villain third brother Vulcan from 2006’s Deadly Genesis to 2006/07’s X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire to 2009’s War of Kings and everything in between, there is no lasting legacy of those really entertaining years on shelves today.
When DC and Marvel over the years have tried to give us sci-fi, we’ve visited those properties, but haven’t made any longer-time commitments. Do we really ONLY want capes and cowls from the Big Two?
DC New 52 & Marvel Now SCI-FI Future
The genesis for this column was interestingly Marvel Comics’ July 2013 solicitations.
Marvel Now Comics
Clearly, Marvel is doing what it can to lay the groundwork in its comics to make its sci-fi hero team, the Guardians of the Galaxy, recognizable in advance of their feature film. That includes rumored big bad Thanos whose 1990’s Infinity influence returns in several mini series in 2013.
However, I was intrigued by the Marvel Now / Comics July 2013 solicitations as the Brian Bendis first collected edition of his Guardians of the Galaxy ongoing series is called “Cosmic Avengers”. In addition there is a one-shot in July 2013 called Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers.
So, Marvel’s plan to make the Guardians of the Galaxy profitable is to brand them as another Avengers team even employing their top Avengers writer to the book. In fairness, 2013’s Guardians of the Galaxy are in-name-only the team as they certainly do not reflect any real way the classic version of the team (see left). Plus, the new team has Iron Man on it. Is Tony Stark 2013’s Wolverine-Spider-Man oversaturation poster child?
To make Guardians of the Galaxy sci-fi sellable, Marvel are making them Cosmic Avengers. Really? Are all super-teams either Avengers or X-something? I certainly hope the Thunderbolts aren’t rebranded as Dark X-Men to more directly align with their sister book Dark Avengers.
DC New 52 Comics
DC New 52 doesn’t get a pass here either. Their Justice League Dark isn’t really a Justice League team, but an A-Team of their top fantasy characters.
Legion Lost, a sci-fi stranger-in-a-strange-land series is cancelled and Legion of the Super-Heroes is struggling sales despite the love and passion writer Paul Levitz is putting into it. Interestingly, Bleeding Cool has reported that DC’s plans to fix the LOSH is make them Tomorrow’s Justice League:
“But just as the Justice League Of America have modelled and matched themselves to the Justice League, a counterpart for each, so the 31st Century Legion Of Superheroes will also begin to model themselves on the 21st century Justice League. A counterpart for each. A League Of Superheroes.”
Despite my many years of reading comics, I am a recent convert to LOSH. I think the stories are great. They have high drama and action in equal measure and the stories under Levitz’s pen are entertaining. If branding the book differently will make it sellable, I’m all for it. However, will the book lose its soul as a League of Superheroes; I’m curious if the League will be the concept or whether the book will be renamed or gain a subhead like “Tomorrow’s Justice League”. Time will tell.
I do also want to point readers to DC New 52’s Threshold. This is anthology type book like All-Star Western and Sword of Sorcery. It features several of DC’s space-faring heroes, but it doesn’t include the Justice League or any icons. Will you read a sci-fi DC Comics with no Justice League to be found?
If we aren’t getting pure sci-fi from the Big Two, it is because readers just don’t support them with their wallets. Our buying habits suggest all we buy from DC and Marvel is iconic spandex nostalgia. That’s on us. 100%.
Me? I’d love me some more of the DC-Marvel amalgam of Thanoseid! 😉
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Tags: All Star Western, Avengers, Battlestar Galactica, bionic man, Bionic Woman, Blade Runner, Blue Beetle, Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Claremont, Clone Wars, Cyclops, Dark Avengers, Dark Horse, Darkseid, Darth Maul, DC Comics, Demythify, Dynamite, FINAL CRISIS, Geoff Johns, George Perez, Green Lantern (DC Comics / Hal Jordan), Green Lantern (Jediah Caul), Guardians of the Galaxy, Harrison Ford, Havok, IDW, Image Comics, Infinity, Infinity Gauntlet, Iron Man, Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, Jimmy Olsen, John Byrne, John Ostrander, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, L.E.G.I.O.N., Legion Lost, Legion of Super-Heroes, Lobo, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel NOW! (All-New Marvel Now!), New 52 (DC Comics), New Gods, Paul Levitz, Six Million Dollar Man, Spider-Man, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Wars, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Superboy, Superboy Prime, Superman, Sword of Sorcery, Thanos, The Fourth World, Threshold (DC Comics), Thunderbolts, Uncanny X-Men, Vulcan, Whilce Portacio, Wolverine