DC News & Views 1.30.04

For those of you who haven’t been, please check out the Top Ten Lists Ben has put together. It is his baby and it is a pretty damn cool thing too. Take it in, savor it. Think of it as a tasty appetizer to this, the sweet, sweet main course. (Why do most of my intros involve food metaphors…or are they similes?)


A Schwartz Update

At his weblog, Peter David posted an e-mail received from Paul Kupperberg, updating Julie Schwartz’s condition. David received the e-mail from Kupperberg last Thursday.

See how the comic world is just like the Weather Channel, constant updates, at Newsarama

Good to hear that Schwartz is returning to his old, apparently grumpy, self. And interesting the kind of e-mails he has been receiving from “fans”.

Connecticut College Grad Idelson Gets An Upgrade

Matt Idelson, editor of DCU titles including CATWOMAN, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS, BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, the DC Focus titles FRACTION and TOUCH and several upcoming projects for both the DCU and VERTIGO, has been promoted to Senior Editor.

“I’m thrilled and flattered by DC’s faith in me,” says Idelson, “and I’m totally jazzed to try and reward that faith with some darn good comics!”

See all the good Conn grads can do at The Pulse

This is a great thing for Mr. Idelson and well deserved. I am thrilled for him. But what I can’t same enough is this: we graduated from the same college! Sure, he was there and graduated before I was even in high school, but come on! With news like this how can I (and Ben) not someday be bound for comic greatness (In all fairness, since Tim has already graduated, because he is incredibly old, really only I have a chance still. Face it Stevens, you had your shot and you blew it, you’ll still be trying to help that woman at Kinko’s operate the color copier while I’m giving the go ahead to Uncanny Adventures of the New Warriors. –Ben). You heard it here first folks, Connecticut College=Comic Creativity Gold.

By the way, how many more times do you think I could write Connecticut College or some derivative of it like Conn or Conn College or CC or the Camels in one article without it getting ridiculous? I would say that my use of the words Connecticut College is getting close. I would say I went overboard with CC right…about…now. CONN COLLEGE! (Conn College: We’re not Uconn. Camel pride, baby. –Ben)


Outsiders Go The Avengers Route, Get All Sexy And Controversial

At least one retailer has run into a parent angry at the content of DC’s Outsiders #8 being sold to a child, and DC has issued a statement in response. W. Alan Davis of Silver Bullet Comics in Wilkesboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina had a mother return an issue and tell him, “…I needed to be more aware of what I was providing to other people’s children,” Davis told us. “I was in shock,” he said. “The customer that complained to me…there were fifty customers just like her that didn’t complain.”

Embrace the smut…umm, metaphorically, at ivc2.com

Well, it was bound to happen on the other side, eventually. At least for DC it was in a non-Code book to start with (as opposed to an all ages book as Avengers typically is). Unfortunately, unlike Marvel they were unable to give retailers the heads-up that the content might have been an issue. Realistically, it is easy to see how and why DC wouldn’t as it is nearly impossible to tell what will and will not offend. Beyond the general fact that it is a non-Code book and thus could be rougher than Code DCU books, there is little DC can do unless they plan to announce what one can expect prior to each issue, (much like TV shows do with the letters and number code in the black box at the start of each show). The sexuality may have pushed boundaries farther than the book had to date or seemed to be heading toward, but once more, it was a non-Code book to start with, so the possibility for it was there.
What is interesting about the mother’s complaint is how it demonstrates how little the Code vs. non-Code distinction matters these days. A parent cannot make a decision on which comics to buy based on the Code because your average parent is probably unaware that there is a distinction. Add in that the Code label has gotten so small that it is difficult to notice unless you are looking in the first place and that one of the two major companies out there (Marvel) does not use it anymore anyway, and you have a guide that provides little guidance to parents. At least with video games, when parents buy Grand Theft Auto, stores and manufacturing can point to the letter and description of what that means on the front, same with movies. But until comics find a way to do this, you can expect such unfortunate foul-ups to happen at least occasionally.


‘Cats Rides the Artist-Go-Round

Back a ways, when Dustin Nguyen departed Wildcats v.3.0 for a Batman stint, Francisco Ruiz Velasco was announced as his replacement. Things is, it’s not going to be as simple as that. We caught up with writer Joe Casey for the lowdown on the ‘Cats art scene.

For the short version, Velasco will illustrate issue #18 (he split the art duties with Sean Phillips for #17), and then Pascal Ferry will jump in on issue #19, shipping in March. Following Ferry, Duncan Rouleau will pencil issues #20-#24, and Nguyen will return with Wildcats v.3.0 #25

Nguyen and Rian Hughes will still be on cover detail.

On to Mr. Casey, then.

Buy your ticket for the carnival at Newsarama

I’m not a reader of the Wildcats or WildC.A.T.S. books (hey, can anyone tell me what the acronym stood for (Covert Action TeamS. I watched the cartoon. I always felt gypped that the S didn’t really stand for anything. –Ben), or why they got rid of it? Acronyms rule!) so this art switch is not really keeping me up at night, but I do feel a kind of sympathetic frustration on behalf of all the Wildcats fans out there. For me, unless there was a compelling story reason for it, (e.g. an alternate reality, time travel, etc) art changes in the midst of an arc where always a disappointment. Even if the art change is not jarring (like Lee to Oeming, as one poster mentioned) there is a still a disappointment as it interrupts the flow of what should be a seamless “world” for at least as long as the arc is running.
However, it is a positive that they are keeping the title up and running with some quick thinking rather than having to resolicit and/or place the book on hiatus.


Cohen and the Art of Turning 200 With Style

Ivan Cohen’s been editing Wonder Woman since issue # 189, just after Phil Jimenez’s critically-acclaimed run. He realized when he got on board that he would have a chance to make her 200th Anniversary Issue something special. Besides containing the conclusion to Greg Rucka and Drew Johnson’s first WW story Down to Earth, the 64 page issue also contains tales by some of comics brightest stars.

Cohen admitted it was his memories of favorite books that jazzed him even more about working on Wonder Woman and thinks this issue will have something for every WW fan. “My tenure on WONDER WOMAN began with issue #189 and, being pretty good at basic arithmetic, I almost immediately realized that I’d very likely be the editor for #200,” he said. “Some of my favorite books as a fan were the big anniversary issues, like SUPERMAN #300 and #400, Fantastic Four #200, and I really wanted to aim that high for Wonder Woman. So what we wound up with were stories that wrap up the first major arc from the current creative team, some shorter pieces that sow the seeds for future stories, and a few pinups and nostalgia pieces that really round out the package – hopefully offering something for fans of any incarnation of Wonder Woman that we’ve ever published.”

Get a glass of champagne and your gold and red corset and bra combo and mosey over to the festivities at The Pulse

For me, issue #200, as a package, was everything that I used to love about annuals without the whole “events that occur in these stories with have almost no bearing on the future of this title, but hey, look, it is a new costumed hero from Norway!” problem that always plagued them. Similarly, it is what I dig about Secret Files, although once more, with more of a bearing on the title character and current arcs. I love the pinups, the short back-up stories, and the idea that I am getting more reading pleasure. Sure, this issue, (and annuals) costs more for that reading pleasure, but it never seemed to bother me. For me, even though the extra stories were barely five pages typically, it felt like the single comic had five stories in it. And as I said before, on top of this, this issue has the added bonus that the lead story is the conclusion of an important story arc. In this case, it is the end of the first arc by a new creative team on the book.
Extra stories and importance? I’m practically giddy.
What, you couldn’t tell? Well, yeah, this is about as giddy as I get. Sorry, not so good at that whole “emotion” thing. (Ladies and gentlemen, possibly the final Tim Stevens story on Wonder Woman #200. Take a moment, an era has ended. –Ben)


Space Ghost Gets a Second Gig to Compliment The Talk Show

DC Comics has confirmed for Newsarama that Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti are currently working on a six-part Space Ghost miniseries that will fully tell the origin of the hero and update him for a more realistic a modern sensibility. Yep – he’s coming out from behind the desk.

“It’s Space Ghost played straight,” Kelly said. “And I’m handling Year One.”

Initially, Kelly explained, DC was reluctant to explore the possibilities of Space Ghost as an action character in comics, but – to his continued surprise, but winds shifted. “I can’t believe they actually went for it,” Kelly said. “It’s really a hardcore, pulp-feel story, with him being betrayed by the police force and taking his revenge. It’s really dark, and it’s going to be blueprint for them to revamp the character and keep it going.”

See Mr. Tad Ghostly somewhere besides behind a desk at Newsarama

Before I start in on this news piece, I have to just mention that Adult Swim, Sundays starting at 11 and featuring at least one episode of Space Ghost: Coast-to-Coast, is quite simply the funniest thing on television. Anyone who likes The Simpsons or Family Guy needs check it out. Random, smart, and hilarious, it is better than any other block of television out there.
Alright, now that I am done shilling for Adult Swim, let’s talk “serious” Space Ghost. This is an intriguing idea, it is always cool to go back and re-imagine a classic character in a new way (hence, why I dig Coast-to-Coast). Since they have already done crazy/silly, dark is the route left. I also appreciate that they are choosing a character no one was clamoring for, instead of just going for whatever 80’s property hasn’t been snapped up yet. Lastly, any book with Ariel Olivetti art is bound to look great. Could be a sleeper hit, if and when it is solicited and released.


Another Edition, Another Lee Comes Bearing Gorgeous Art

You’d think a comic featuring Superman and Batman on a monthly basis would contain enough hero goodness, but writer Jeph Loeb is kicking February’s Superman/Batman up a notch by adding the duo’s teen apprentices Robin and Superboy to the mix. Those two Teen Titans are debating whether to reveal the information about Superboy’s origin they learned in Teen Titans # 6 to Superman and Batman. Also guest-starring in this issue is artist Pat Lee. The Dreamwave co-founder is rendering both the cover and interiors.

It seems as if a co-founder of a company with a monthly series (the Capcom property Devil May Cry) on his hands wouldn’t have much time to do a fill-in issue for anyone. But Pat Lee said he couldn’t pass up this chance. “Ed McGuiness hooked me up with DC to do a single issue,” Lee explained. “I took the opportunity mainly just because it was Batman and Superman. Ed McGuiness was really cool to have asked me if I would be interested. I loved watching Justice League when I was young and thought of how cool all the characters were and how they interacted with one another. It was the coolest cartoon show ever. I liked the fact that all the characters had different powers and characteristics. There was so much energy to all the characters.”

I think Batman and Superman are turning Japanese; they’re turning Japanese, I really think so (Wow. If we can get more clever than that, I’d like to see it. Well done, T-Bone. –Ben) See why at The Pulse

Wow, are people just beating this art up all over the place on the talkback. If this were medieval times, I do declare that people would be storming Lee’s castle with pitch forks and torches. Or if it was Medieval Times, Jim Carrey would be wearing a silly helmet and fighting a similarly armored. Matthew Broderick. But I digress.
The thumbnails look fine to me, I like the coloring a lot. Would I want the title to look like this month after month, nah, it is too Japanese animated film for the characters I feel. For a one-issue stint in Japan though, I like it. I may hate it after seeing it for 22 pages, but from this limited exposure, I am hardly ready to stone Lee yet. Plus, giant robots! Come on people, you gotta love that. (I just hope this doesn’t throw a monkey wrench in what’s going on over in Teen Titans. However, given that Jeph Loeb & Geoff Johns stare a studio, I tend to doubt it. The upside is that with Superboy & Robin getting the spotlight here maybe we can see some more Cyborg, etc. in Titans…oh yeah, plus a great story with cool art, that’s the other upside. –Ben)


When there’s trouble you know who to call…
J. TORRES!
From his tower he can see it all….
J. TORRES!
J. Torres Go!

J. Torres comes from the indie comics scene, writing the teen heroes book Sidekicks for Oni Press, and is the wordsmith behind Jason and the Argobots, Copybook Tales and Alison Dare, to name just a few. For the “tights and flights” crowd, he’s done a little moonlighting – mostly with the mutant folk over at Marvel – and he also contributes an entertaining weekly column over at Comic Book Resources called Open Your Mouth.

Last, but not least, Torres pens the only DC book I currently buy on a regular basis, Teen Titans Go!

The series, now on its third issue, is doing quite well and is getting some attention from outside the comic industry, making an appearance in Sports Illustrated for Kids this month reaching a potential audience larger than any of the top selling monthlies on the market. The show, which is also doing quite well for itself, kicked off its second season on the Cartoon Network January 10th and has been renewed for a full 52 episodes (guaranteeing the book survives longer than the last two books I read regularly from the publisher).

I tracked down the inimitable Mr. Torres and grilled him on the new series, one plucky Canadian to another.

Silver Bullet Comics, GO!

Well, I don’t have much to say about the new Age Appropriate book, but am I the only one who is simultaneously repulsed, frightened, and enthralled by the theme song? (Nope. –Ben)
Cause, seriously, that is some bad mojo.


DC Press Release Corner
(Hot And Tasty Press Releases Posted Before the “Other” Guys)

It’s Not a Pulitzer, But…

This past weekend, the Delcourt French language edition of THE SANDMAN: SEASON OF MISTS won the Writers’ Prize at the Comics Festival at Angoulême.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN was nominated in the same category.

Hey, awards are great! Any idea what category it is these two were nominated in? Any clue how I can type this cool letter “ê” without just cutting and pasting it?


SHOOTING BACK AT THE GRIMACE

It seems nothing gets you folks a-chatting like “decompressed storytelling.” If I had known that earlier, I just would have renamed the column that…too late now I guess. Here are a few choice responses.

I’m with you here, a good non-violent form of action storyline is great. I have no problem when a writer takes their time telling a story because it allows the reader to get inside the head the characters while at the same time, progressing a plotline.
But you know what I hate, decompressing every chapter before the final one and then being left having to cram so much into the final issue that it makes no sense and half the built up plot lines are left dangling in an unsatisfactory manner. Xtreme X-Men-God Loves Man Kills 2, Xtreme X-Men-Intifada & Uncanny X-Men-The Draco all fit this bill and it just frustrates me to no end. But that’s simply piss poor pacing.

-Nalyd Psycho

I definitely have to agree with you on that point. To cite a few more examples (and balance it out with a few DC choices) Mr. McCracken choose a great one last week with Azrael where, as he so accurately put it, the last issue felt like it started as part 1 of a 4 part series and about halfway through they realized it was the last issue. Also suffering from a similar phenomenon was the conclusion of Hourman (what a great book that was) that felt like, despite the writer’s assertions to the contrary, DC told him to hurry up and wrap up everything in 22 pages when he still had a few issues left to go. Finally, most recently, Hush, for all its Riddlery goodness crammed far too much into that last issue that might have been received had it been more slowly examined over the course of 2-3 issues.
Anyway, countless examples abound. And I think we can all agree that there are few things sadder in comics than a story that starts out so promising and feels hurried or unfinished in its last issue.

Tim,

I was reading your most recent column on 411 and at the end you give your thoughts on the use of the term ‘decompressed storytelling.’ Now I don’t peruse online comic fandom as much as I used to but I’ve been reading some newsgroups and message boards recently and it occurs to me that this is simply another instance of fans being resistant to change. It’s one of the oldest stories in the industry but it really is as persistent now as it’s ever been.
People want the industry to grow and thrive economically and they also want comics themselves to be taken seriously as a creative form of medium, just like film, television, novels etc… But what people don’t seem to realize is that the medium needs to evolve stylistically before it will attract an audience capable of sustaining it in both of these fashions.
Comics right now are hamstrung when it comes to the creative side of things. Not because of any inherent weakness of the medium itself but because of the expectation of entrenched fandom. People want the industry to grow, but they don’t want it to change. So when confronted with a storyline, or even a single issue, that bucks their expectations of what a comic is supposed to be they have an automatic negative reaction. I’ve seen this happen even when they’ve enjoyed the storyline itself.
Ultimately I don’t think this is either a good or a bad thing. I think it’s very natural in fact. And people need to feel free to form their own opinions, of course. But what fans need to realize is that experimentation and diversification of styles is going to happen. It needs to happen. Especially among the superhero genre since that’s always what’s been most visible to the mainstream consumers.
If fans want to offer constructive criticisms on these experiments, that’s great. I think that should be encouraged. But the criticisms should be based on the merits, (or lack thereof), of the individual storyline or structure being discussed. (And for the record I think ‘it’s too slow’ can be a valid criticism.) Not on some nebulous complaint about ‘it’s not how Stan Lee would’ve written it’, which is what ‘decompressed storytelling’ seems to basically boil down to.
Which I guess is my long winded way of saying, I agree. Good column.

-Jason Kizer

Just read the latest column, and completely agree with many of your points.
There are waaay too many labels that are generally used as a ‘catch-all’ term for something we dislike. ‘Un-American’ (or for me ‘un-Australian’) is a personaly favourite. ‘Too politically correct’ is another.
Now – about so-called ‘de-compressed storytelling’. I think the best way to sum up the style is : how easy is it to sum up what happens in the issue in one sentence? Read an old Spider-Man comic (sorry – non-DC example). Then sum up the story. It would take a while, because characters would engage in lengthy and clunky exposition to themselves and other people. You read the story to FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT, and for no other reason. When a 12-year-old kid read Spider-Man, he didn’t need dissections of Spider-Man’s psyche, he wanted Spider-Man to kick ass on bad guys.
Nowadays. it is often very easy to sum up a story-line in a couple of lines. Heck, the recent Daredevil Echo arc (5 issues) can basically be summarised by saying : Echo thinks a lot, goes to the countryside, thinks some more, runs into Wolverine, talks a bit and then thinks some more. But to many people as a character study, a think-piece and a showcase for art – they think stunning. Comics nowadays don’t always just focus on what happens next, but WHY it happens next, and WHO it is happening to. Not to your taste? There’s a heck of a lot of old-school stuff in the ‘Essential’ TPBs for you…

Cheers,

Tim B.
Melbourne, Australia

Some very good responses and I thank you for them. I’d jokingly suggest that you guys should be writing this column, but then what is true is often sad, not funny. Plus, I am sure Ben and Daron would rather edit any one else besides my prose. Alas, it is not to be. (The correct sentence structure would have been “anybody’s prose besides mine.” God, I can’t believe you’re a Conn College graduate like Matt Idelson. –Ben)
In any case, as I mentioned, there were several great responses. Oddly enough though, everyone agreed with me. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be agreed with, but it seems to me at least a few of you disagree and could construct intelligent sounding arguments to that end. So let’s hear from those folks.


That’s all for this week. I am off to the casinos for a night of debauchery in honor of my good friend Ben Morse’s birthday. You all make your own debaucherous fun this weekend and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday. And do come back because otherwise I might get mad. Un Gajje gets mad! Un Gajje gets strong! Un Gajje with SMASH!!!! And if pure abject terror ain’t enough for you, there will be a contest next week for free stuff. Everybody likes free stuff, no?

Quote of the week (from Ben & Tim’s wild night at Mohegan Sun casino):

“Every second this waitress doesn’t ask me if I want another drink is another dollar that would be coming out of her tip if I were paying for dinner”
-Timothy Stevens