DC News & Views 1.24.04

The column ran too long this time you will have to wait until next week for my take on ¡°decompressed storytelling¡±. I know many of you must be disappointed, so I did take the time to tee off on the DC v. Marvel feud of fans to fulfill you desire to read my prattle on about some issue for a few paragraphs. I know it is not the same, but I hope it fills the void for you.

Adams Jumps From Tales to Action

DC Comics has announced that Arthur Adams, artist of the Jonni Future strip in Tom Strong¡¯s Terrific Tales has signed a three-year exclusive contract with the publisher. His first work under the new agreement will be as the regular cover artist of Action Comics starting with #814.

Read yet another press release about yet another exclusive contract at Newsarama or
The Pulse

This is getting depressing. Week after week coming up with a new way to congratulate DC on the reigning in of another creator is taxing and not particularly interesting work. (Not to mention the fact that exclusive contracts just kinda, well, suck. I can see the upside for the fans, that a creator gets a chance to really focus in on a smaller group of projects and up their quality; Judd Winick is an example of somebody whose work is already improving since he went exclusive. But it takes away some of that sense of wonder that we comic geeks love so much. The excitement of somebody who¡¯s only worked for DC doing X-Men or Avengers or something. That I will miss. ¨CBen) The article on Newsarama however does prompt a nice little discussion about a particular pet peeve of mine: the DC rules, Marvel sucks or DC sucks, Marvel rules mentality that some fans have an almost addiction to indulging in.
Obviously, since I write this column (and for free, no less), I am a DC fan. Yet, through some odd trick of genetics, I am also a Marvel fan. Bizarre I know. Perhaps I should be tagged and studied in my natural element. (You mean creeping around the girls locker rooms of Connecticut high schools in that fake janitor¡¯s get up you bought? ¨CBen)
All right, sorry, obvious sarcasm there. It is just this painting of either side as the evil empire is ridiculous to me and part of the reason so many comic fans get the bum rap of being excessively critical and/or angry about everything all the time. Both companies have put out some great comics in the years since I began reading and both companies have made some truly boneheaded decisions as well. Remember, DC is the company that both managed to land mega-talent Jim Lee on Batman (and soon Superman) and make a madman of many people¡¯s favorite GL, Hal Jordan. Recall if you will, Marvel managed to create a brutally overlong and ultimately deeply unsatisfying Spider-Man clone saga and also to happen to produce one of the best runs of Fantastic Four (which continues today) with Mark Waid as writer. So how is it again that there are ¡°good¡± and ¡°bad¡± guys in this.
I understand the whole feud aspect, Stan Lee was a big fan and Quesada often has discussed resurrecting it, particularly early in his EIC (or EEK) tenure. But the feud was supposed to be fun mocking between the two companies and their fans, much like how you might mock a friend while dunking on him all day or providing her with a free clinic on how video games were meant to be played. The amount of vitriol expelled by fans on either side of the aisle cannot possibly be what was intended.
The long and short of it is this: cheering one company while damning the either is equivalent to cruelly demoralizing Random House while building up Putnam Publishing. You may love the titles that Putnam publishes and have little use for those of Random House, but really, you would never actually do this would you? It is great to have a favorite character or company, but this is hardly a holy war. No one need wish utter desolation on DC or that Marvel be forever swallowed by the shadow of bankruptcy. Truth is, when both companies are at their best, comics are too. When applied correctly, the rivalry forces each company in turn to raise the level of their play. However, substitute a blind hatred for silly fun and over time both companies will be adversely affected. Sure, cheer on DC or Marvel, but, more than anything, cheer on comics. (Amen, Tim Stevens. I too enjoy both companies. I¡¯m not a huge fan of Joe Quesada¡¯s attitude at times, but the man is entertaining. I have a slight preference for DC, but it¡¯s a matter of taste, not perceiving Marvel as any sort of evil thing. Comics should be one big happy family of constantly bickering people. ¨CBen)

And now, I step off my soapbox and get back to doing my real job¡­the whole news thing.

Vankin Embraces The Dizzy Spells

Jonathan Vankin, writer of numerous projects for both VERTIGO and Paradox Press, has joined the DC Comics staff as editor with VERTIGO.

Vankin is the writer of VERTIGO POP!: TOKYO and VERTIGO POP!: BANGKOK, as well as Paradox Press’s THE BIG BOOKS OF THE 70s, SCANDAL, BAD and GRIMM. He is the author of 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time (Citadel Press), Conspiracies, Cover-Ups and Crimes (Dell), and the upcoming Based on a True Story (But With More Car Crashes) (Chicago Review Press). As a writer/reporter, Vankin has contributed articles to The New York Times Magazine, Wired, Salon, L.A. Weekly, New York Press, and others. He served as Sports Editor for Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri, News Editor for the San Jos¨¦, CA, Metro, and Staff Writer for the Worcester, MA, Worcester Magazine.

See a writer find his inner evil editor (yeah, you heard me Daron, EVIL!)(Daron¡¯s not here. He¡¯s off killing puppies. He says go to be entered in a lottery for a new car. ¨CBen) at The Pulse

Oddly enough, I know nothing of Vankin¡¯s comic work, but have, however, read portions of his two conspiracy books and the Big Book of the 70¡¯s. There was some very good stuff in each of them and it will be interesting to see if and how his sensibilities (which, obviously, include an interest in conspiracies) will manifest themselves in the Vertigo Universe. It is also always intriguing to see how a writer adapts to being an editor. As we are speaking about editors, it should be noted that my mention of evil editors above is meant in humor. Not all editors are evil as both Ben Morse (who is turning 22 this weekend, BIG UPS TO BEN!!!) (As we speak in fact. ¨CBen) and myself were or are editors and we are both very excellent people. Daron, on the other hand, I have been told, is known to sacrifice a goat once a fortnight and randomly feed on orphans. (That¡¯s not fair, Tim. It¡¯s not random, it¡¯s extremely deliberate and well-planned. ¨CBen) Now, I don¡¯t know this for a fact or anything, this is just what I have heard.

Batman in for a Little Morse Code

This February, Scott Morse is lending his unique style and form to the Darknight Detective’s world in Batman: Roomful of Strangers. Although Morse may be best-known for his critically-acclaimed independent comics works such as Soulwind, Visitations, and The Barefoot Serpent, to name a few. His unique take on the Darknight Detective’s world and Jim Gordon should have a crossover appeal to all comics fans.
The man, the myth, the legend! The world of Batman has been in comic existence for over sixty years. That legacy and history is enough to lure even the most wary of comics creators into taking his or her shot at adding to the lore. As Morse enthused, “C’mon! It’s BATMAN! How can anyone pass up working on a Batman book? Seriously, though, Bob Schreck and I wanted to work up something fun that would add to the mythos in a unique way, playing with the continuity, but making a story that can really stand alone and flesh out Jim Gordon and his connection to Batman a bit.”

Have fun trying to convert the articles text into long and short burst of sound or light and challenge your friends to translate at The Pulse

First off, does that headline even make sense? Secondly, I made the Morse=Morse code joke in my column just now. Ben is just gonna love that. In my defense though, I didn¡¯t use him to do it. That counts, right? (Yeah, Morse Code jokes=infallible comedic gold. If only this article weren¡¯t about my black sheep bastard cousin Scott. ¨CBen)
My begging for forgiveness aside, giving Gordon some time back in the spotlight is an excellent call. Some of Batman¡¯s best stories have not only greatly fleshed out who Batman is, but also dramatically depicted the friendship and working relationship between he and Gordon. Check out Year One for a shining example of that. Or if you are hoping for a little more recent tales, check out Officer Down or No Man¡¯s Land. The issue where Batman attempts to reveal his identity to Gordon is a particular highlight. The idea of placing it in a dead space of continuity for Gordon (post-retirement, presumably pre- Made of Wood) is smart too. It grounds it in current continuity, which gives it resonance within the Bat-verse, but there is little to worry about muddying or outright contradicting.
The art is pleasant surprise as well. Definitely a unique style, but it looks great in the few preview panels. It certainly is not traditional, but I think that can only benefit a story of this kind.

Meltzer¡¯s ¡°Novel¡± Game Hits the Shelves

It¡¯s not a Wednesday, but it is a pretty big relase for one creator ¨C today marks the release of Brad Meltzer¡¯s latest novel, The Zero Game from Warner Books. While the novel is about a secret game in the Capitol, there are a few familiar faces around.

Read about what Meltzer has the nerve to do when not sacrificing his creative energies to the comic gods at Newsarama

I don¡¯t really want to say much on Meltzer¡¯s newest novel as my review should be up on the site within the next few days. To just give you a general heads up, it is quite good and recommended to anyone who enjoys the genre of the thriller novel. Look to this page for a more in-depth review in the next few days.
In the meantime please amuse yourself at The New York Post¡¯s site which follows a week in Meltzer¡¯s life.

It is Best Not to Rush Into New Frontier

DC has announced that Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier will switch from a monthly to a bimonthly shipping schedule, beginning with issue #4, which will arrive in stores in May.

Check out this link to read exactly what is written above¡­plus some always excellent fan commentary at Newsarama

(these press releases are so good, we are the first to put them up)

DC Trumpets 2003 Success

Last week, Diamond Comic Distributors, DC Comics’ sales agent for direct sales, released its final statistics for direct sales in 2003, with DC leading in multiple categories thanks to the strong success of projects including BATMAN, the relaunch of TEEN TITANS, and many others.
The numbers show DC’s continued growth, led by the solidifying of both its core and new titles and the power of its reorder policies.
DC had the Number One title of the year with BATMAN #619, along with 7 of the Top 10 titles on the Diamond chart and 12 of the Top 25. This is up from 7 in the Top 25 in 2002.
“We’re pleased with our 2003 showing,” says Paul Levitz, DC’s President & Publisher, “with a solid mix of winners in periodical and book formats, ranging across our imprints.”
Leading the pack was the success of “Hush” by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams, with its explosive conclusion in BATMAN #619 at the top of Diamond’s “Top 100 Comics” chart for 2003, a first for a regular issue of the title. The series, which reached the #1 sales spot for 8 months of the team’s 12-issue run, led DC’s surge with 11 places on the chart.

Other titles in the Top 25 sellers of 2003 included:

AVENGERS/JLA #2 by Kurt Busiek and George P§Ûrez
BATMAN #611-618 by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams
SUPERMAN/BATMAN #1-2 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness

The debut issue of TEEN TITANS, by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone, was in the
#32 slot for the Top 100, also showing that DC’s sales potential goes beyond its “franchise” characters.
DC’s ongoing commitment to the expansion of the graphic novel is reflected in the sheer number of titles included in Diamond’s “Top 100 Graphic Novels” chart, including projects from the DC Universe, WildStorm and VERTIGO. Included in the chart’s Top 10 are:
JLA: LIBERTY & JUSTICE SC by Paul Dini and Alex Ross, which reached the #1 spot on the chart
Neil Gaiman’s New York Times best-seller THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS HC, from VERTIGO, with art by an international roster of illustrators and a cover by Dave McKean
DEATH: AT DEATH’S DOOR SC by Jill Thompson, from VERTIGO
Y: THE LAST MAN: UNMANNED TP by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jos§Û Marzan, Jr. and a cover by J.G. Jones, from VERTIGO
BATMAN: HUSH Volume 1 HC, by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee & Scott Williams

DC placed a total of 37 titles in the Top 100 Graphic Novels in 2003. Among these were many perpetual sellers that maintained their strong sales positions in 2003, along with new titles showing early signs of become evergreen sellers.

DC led in total reorders by more than 10 points. Continuing availability of key projects and a steady backlist program added to the publisher’s momentum and were the core of its long-term growth. DC maintains the industry¡¯s largest and most diverse backlist to support retailers and provide steady fuel for consumer demand.

“2003 was a great year for DC in terms of sales, due to a terrific creative year,” says Bob Wayne, DC’s VP Sales & Marketing. “Our editorial teams’ work with top talent plus our proven ability to keep strong selling items available is DC’s recipe for success for our core market.”

Further tying in to BATMAN: HUSH, the Jim Lee-designed BATMAN STATUE,
sculpted by Tim Bruckner, led the “Top 25 Toys” chart. Other DC Direct items on the chart were:
KINGDOM COME ACTION FIGURES Assortment for both Series 1 and 2

Adds Wayne, “With all we’ve got on tap for 2004, I’m confident it will be a great year not only for DC but also for specialty retailers and, most important, for their customers.”

If there was any doubt the DC had a creative and sales resurgence in the past year, this list should certainly alleviate most of that. As far as Wayne¡¯s predictions for 2004, I think that if Superman connects nearly as well as Batman did this past year, DC is pretty much set for the next 12 months.

Sneak Peaks of Future Hotness

Check out these links for some preview images to upcoming blazing hot DC projects

JLA #94 (JAN040245)


KINETIC #1 (JAN040249)


You know, in re-reading my above piece on the petty rivalries between DC and Marvel, I came across way too finger wagging and paternal. I am not going to delete it because I still think it is valuable, but I apologize if it seems like I am talking down to anyone. (Whoa¡­let me write down the date¡­January 24th¡­hey, it¡¯s my birthday¡­neat. ¨CBen) My point is, as succinctly as I can say it, is that the rivalry is fine as long as we take it in good fun. Also, it is way more important to trumpet the successes of comics (be it for one company in particular or multiple fans) rather than put down or highlight the failure of others.
I hope that came across above, but here it is again in case it didn¡¯t.
Remember to let me know what your comic book resolutions are for the New Year at my e-mail or on the 411mania message board. It is okay to go there, I promise. Show Un Gajje (that¡¯s me) a little love. We¡¯ll all be better for it. And by all, I mean my ego.

See you next time, or I¡¯ll burn you with my eyes.