DC News & Views 04.21.04

Alright, alright, alright. Big goings on demand our attention shortly, but first I just want to answer a question from last week. Daron asked me how many nicknames I had, so I thought I’d just clear it up now. They are, in no particular order: Mr. President, Lex, Cueball, Redman (as in the former St. John’s mascot, not the rapper, or the tobacco), Death, Gage, Un Gajje, Buck Deuce, Timoteo, Uncle Timmy, Pablo Escobar El Segundo, The Grimace, Don Grimash, and Il Grimache. Lotta nicknames for a guy with as simple a birth name as Timothy Gage Stevens. I guess that was just a little too WASP for everyone’s tastes.

Wildstorm Books Drop Like Flies or My, How Quickly Things Change

Welcome to the Wildstorm subsection of this week’s column. In the DCU, no bigger news came out then what was happening with this imprint. I kick the section off with a report on a post-Coup D’Etat profile piece on Stormwatch, then follow it with the announcement of cancellations with that book and Wildcats. Then, we check in with the still hanging on Sleeper and finally, pull it all together with some opinion pieces on the cancellations. There is a plethora of information in total, but all help shape the picture of how the past week in Wildstorm went down.

The Wildstorm Universe post Coup D’Etat ain’t the most stable place. Especially if your name is Ben Santini, and you happen to be in charge of Team Achilles, an organization tasked by the United Nations to keep close tabs on super-powered beings around the world, and take out those that go rogue.

As a result of The Authority taking over the United States in Coup, Team Achilles has had to go underground as, and rightly so, the Authority sees the team as a major threat to their hold on power in the US.

Read the intriguing future of Stormwatch at Newsarama

As was mentioned in the article about Stormwatch: Team Achilles, the post Coup D’Etat Wildstorm Universe is an unstable place. Unfortunately, this means both within the fictional world as well as in the real. Wildcats 3.0 writer Joe Casey has informed Newsarama that the series has been cancelled.

Shortly after he learned of the book’s cancellation, Casey spoke with Newsarama about his run and the series end.

Read about the first disappointing demise at Newsarama

The other shoe that many feared would, has indeed dropped. Along with the cancellation of Wildcats 3.0 DC Comics has confirmed for Newsarama that StormWatch: Team Achilles has been cancelled. The series’ final issue will be July’s #24.

We spoke with series writer Micah Wright for more.

Remember that intriguing future? Forget about it. Why? See Newsarama for the answers.

Although last week it was confirmed a few Wildstorm series, Wildcats and Stormwatch Team Achilles were being cancelled this summer, but one series not in any apparent danger is the multiple-Eisner nominated Sleeper. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Philips are just about to launch Season Two and have lots of plans for Holden Carver and his associates. The action isn’t stopping any time soon, but Brubaker slowed down enough to answer a few questions for THE PULSE about this project.

Check out a preview for the surviving critically successful, but commercially challenged Wildstorm book at The Pulse

Artist Sean Phillips is one super busy artist. He isn’t just busy bringing the world of Holden Carver to life in the Eisner-Award nominated Wildstorm series, Sleeper, he’s also got an art show opening this week, an issue of Hawkman and Catwoman coming out soon, and several other things on his schedule. Although, with all that going on it’s tough to imagine Phillips has time for anything else, but he did manage to answer a ton of questions about his busy summer.

See what Phillips is doing with Sleeper and beyond at The Pulse

While some have been calling the recent cancellations of Wildcats and StormWatch: Team Achilles the beginning of the end for the DC imprint, Sleeper (and upcoming Authority) writer Ed Brubaker has some thoughts as well:

Brubaker weighs in and assures fans at Newsarama

Finding something even remotely diplomatic to say about these Wildstorm cancellations might be beyond my abilities, so please consider that an adequate warning.

Brandon Thomas provides the people with some fan insight at Silver Bullet Comics

Well, this is one of the more spectacular series of events (in the bad way) since…well…since CrossGen in the past two weeks. We are on quite a roll here in the comic industry, aren’t we?

Well, for once, I am going to try and not make this about me. Yes, I did just get turned on to Wildcats and yes, it is a great book with a take so smart that I cannot believe no one has used the approach before. And yes, Stormwatch has similarly piqued my interest as of late. But forget about that. Let’s talk about the creators.

First, Micah Wright certainly drew the short straw on the publicity tour, didn’t he? According to his interview following the cancellation announcement, he had known about the cancellation for some period of time. Yet, two days before, he had to do a promotional interview for the same book, knowing that it was cancelled. What the hell? Does that not suck huge? Can you imagine having to promote something that you care about, knowing that it is already cancelled? Well, think of going out on that last date, when you knew you were going to get dumped. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Mr. Wright’s world.

Joe Casey might not to have had to jump through so many hoops, but he, too, is clearly put out. What struck me most about his interview was how genuinely sad his comments came across. I have read more than a few articles about cancelled series, and creators’ responses run the gambit from non-plussed, to angry to the “just happy to be nominated” style of reaction (as in: “I’m just happy I got to do a lot of what I set out to.”), but none have ever struck me as much as Casey’s comments did. In a very real way, this seems to be the work that Casey had most identified as his and to have it cancelled…well, clearly it has not left him unaffected.

All is not bad news, as highlighted by the Sleeper pieces, but for many it might be hard to see that right now. That many is perhaps best represented by Brandon Thomas. The man has reached his fill of cancelled titles and while I am certainly sympathetic, I am forced to ask: why now? Any and every comic fan can list off the titles we loved that we watched cancelled long before the talent and thoughtfulness that went in to them deserved. DC alone has cancelled Aztek, Chronos, Chase, Resurrection Man, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., Young Heroes in Love, Major Bummer, Hourman, and a host of others in the past decade. Every one of those titles had something to offer the industry that was somehow missed, be it lack of promotion or reader apathy or whatever. Believe me, I understand the frustration, especially on the heels of the apparent meltdown of fan favorite titles over at CrossGen around the same time. And maybe Mr. Thomas has finally reached his threshold for this. Perhaps the cancellations are in fact, the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. Possibly, when combined with some of the other announcements of the past week, (scan down to see a few), the comic book sky really does seem like it is falling.

But, thankfully, it isn’t.

The end is not near, the end is not here. There are bright spots amongst these disappointments and there will continue to be.

I feel some guilt about not being more incensed about these cancellations. In some ways, it seems it would be my duty to jump up and down and let loose my massive rage upon all of comicdom. I do not want to just accept these things as “business” or just “the way things are.” I recognize, but dislike that comics are an industry, not my private island. The thing is, private island or not, the “industry” continues to entertain me. I am disappointed when books I read fail or when diversity suffers, most certainly, but every week, week in, week out, I read books that I enjoy. Even with the cancellations, I know that I have books waiting for me each Wednesday that will remind me why I collect comics.

I’m not an apologist, but there is enough good that I see no need to fold up, to proclaim that comics are on a self-destructive path of doom. There will always be titles cancelled before their time and titles that drag on long past their expiration dates. The marquee characters will always be the focus of advertising. And some days suck more the others. These are such days. But tell me, honestly, every Wednesday when you hit the store, do you not feel the rush?

This is rough, but the sky is not falling.

Batman, Family, Engages in Summer “Games

There’s going to be hell to pay this summer in the city of Gotham. All of the Batman Family is affected when the ruling crime factions decide each wants to be top dog. The streets are covered in blood, as war erupts. Villains may not be the only ones in dangers through this saga. Members of the Batman clan may take a hit or two themselves. The 25-part, three-month spanning Batman: War Games, begins in a special twelve-cent issue and will rock the very foundations of most Batman related titles. Batman Group Editor, Bob Schreck gave THE PULSE a few details about this upcoming event.

Join be up or be draft at The Pulse

Ahh, here be the focal point of thy rage, Comic Readers of America. Before I go any further, let me just point out that, no, the Wildstorm titles were not cancelled to fund this Bat-fest. Seriously, I swear.

Let me enter my confession on the record that the last several Bat crossovers, I own in one way or another. Knightfall? Yup, got it in trade. Knightquest? The thing was too damn big to collect every issue at my age, but I have a chunk. Knightsend? The whole thing in the original issues. Contagion and Legacy? Trade. Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, Officer Down? Got ‘em all in the issues. And I am not even including mini-crossovers like Troika, Prodigal or Turning Points. What is truly screwed up is that I actually dig most of them, at least in some portion, (well except Legacy. Boohisssss). I am a comic fan and Batman is one of my favorite characters. Thus, I am hard wired to love events. It is just something in my DNA, I suppose. And, really, no need to feel guilty about that. DC should feel guilty for exploiting my natural weakness occasionally, but I won’t feel guilty about it.

Okay, confessions aside, I find myself oddly unstirred by this announcement. With the previous crossovers, I felt there was compelling reason for them. I mean, besides the bottom line. A huge earthquake, Batman broken, replaced, retrained, and returned, a city in rubble, a city in rubble and disconnected from the rest of the country, etc, etc. These were events that felt too big to fit in one comic, in one storyline. They seemed to support multi-issue, multi-title consumption. But isn’t Gotham consumed by gang warfare roughly once every 6 months. Not to be sarcastic or mean, but how is this different.

I am sucker, so I’ll at least pick up the 12-center and most likely the one to follow it. But in what is quickly shaping up to be the year return of the mega-crossover (Coup d’Etat already, Identity Crisis to rattle off two quick DC items) I might just be crossovered out. Which is sort of depressing, in a way. I just hope I’m not growing out of them. That is just too scary to contemplate.

Hard Traveling Heroes Finally Arrive in the Land of Paperback

Ask almost anyone for favorite or memorable DC stories from the early 1970s and chances are the Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-ups would top most top ten. Although long out of print and tough to find in most comic back issue bins, that doesn’t mean the opportunity to possess those stories is gone. This May, DC Comics is releasing Green Lantern/Green Arrow Vol. 1, a collection of their earliest tales from Green Lantern #s 76 – 82 and, as a bonus, including a back-up story from Flash # 226 featuring the emerald hued heroes. Original series writer Denny O’Neil answered a few questions for us about his memories from working on those early issues.

See what took these dawdlers so long at The Pulse

When this edition of these stories was release in hardcover a few years back, I found myself very excited. The idea of culturally relevant superheroes was not particularly in vogue, but I loved it and this was a cornerstone of those works, if all I had read was indeed true.

So I hunted down a hardcover, picked it up, and got into line. As I waited, I happened to flip it over and take a gander at the price. Very quietly, very slowly, I back out of line and placed the book on the shelf from whence it came. Then, head down so as not to catch anyone’s eye, I quickly left the store. I wanted those stories, but in hardcover…the price was just far too steep. Sad, but true.

Therefore, a hearty hey, hey to DC for putting in the softcover edition. That younger me appreciates. This older me wonders what, exactly, took so damn long. Either way, hey hey.

Ross Meet Rayner, Rayner Meet Ross

Although most people may have come to know Luke Ross through his CrossGen work, especially his renderings on Way of the Rat. The Brazilian comics creator has been in the business for ten years and is looking forward to his return to DC on Green Lantern. Teaming with writer Ron Marz, this six-part story, Homecoming, pits Kyle Rayner against some of his deadliest rogues. Will Kyle survive? Can you go home again?

To see how this real artist handles a fictional green power ring wielding one, check out the article at The Pulse

Mmm, tasty art. Doesn’t tell me whether Rayner will live or die, but then, they don’t tend to reveal that stuff in promo artwork anyway. Perhaps in another year or so, but for now, they still believe in trying to keep some sense of drama and anticipation…weirdos.

Great Cover Switch: Comic Fans Shrug

Two of comics ‘ hottest art teams turn the tables on each other in May, as Michael Turner & Peter Steigerwald provide a variant cover for SUPERMAN #205 (MAR040293) and Jim Lee & Scott Williams provide a variant cover for SUPERMAN/BATMAN #10 (MAR040294).

Read all about this…non-event at Newsarama

Wow…I find myself…kind of sad. In that “does this really matter sort of way.” What I fear most is that, yes, yes it very much matters. Boy, would that be disappointing

Is This What the Fuss is About?

DC Comics has provided Newsarama with early looks at the alternate covers to Superman #205 by Michael Turner, and Superman/Batman #10 by Jim Lee.

Make your friends jealous by being the first to peek these covers at Newsarama

Very beautiful art. I still say though…is this really deserving of so much attention? (I say, obviously with a complete lack of awareness of irony, as I mention the event twice in one column).

Two Volumes Up, Two Volumes Down

Only two days after arriving in stores on April 7, SUPERMAN/BATMAN #8 Second Printing (JAN045280) has sold out at DC Comics. This issue features the first chapter of the 6-part story “The Supergirl from Krypton,” written by Jeph Loeb with art and a new cover by Michael Turner in pencil form.

Prepare to be stunned by a press release atSilver Bullet Comics

Seriously, Michael Turner, Jeph Loeb, sell out issue? Weird.

Superman’s Secret Identity is Clark Kent…Just Not THAT Kent

Clark Kent is Superman.

That may not be a big revelation to some, but as writer Kurt Busiek explained of the DC Comics mini-series “Superman: Secret Identity”, it is a different kind of twist in the series. While Busiek has received a lot of acclaim for his writing on “Secret Identity,” many fans have found their jaws on the ground while staring at the work of artist Stuart Immonen. Not a stranger to the Superman universe, Immonen spoke with CBR News as part of CBR’s Superman celebration and explained how he got attached to the project.

It may not be Victoria’s Secret, but it is still pretty good. Check out Comic Book Resources if you don’t believe me.

This may not be a “true” Superman book, but if you don’t read it, you aren’t a “true” Superman fan.

That’s right, I said it. How you like me now?

The Superman Hype Train Pulls Into the Station with Sinclair Riding on the Caboose

When CBR News last spoke to colorist Alex Sinclair, Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee’s “Superman” seemed like a far away dream to fans. Now with the creative team debuting on the series in a matter of days, CBR News decided to continue its Superman Celebration with the man responsible for coloring “Superman.”

“It’s easier than ‘Batman,’ I think,” says Sinclair when asked about working on “Superman” for DC Comics. “Having done a 12 issue run with Jim and Scott helped me get in tune with the art and what works best with their style–the learning curve won’t be there. I won’t be coloring it exactly the same as ‘Batman,’ but the base approach will be similar. I am also a little more used to the attention the project gets so no more stage fright [laughs].”

See the pretty colors at Comic Book Resources

Sinclair is one of the best. It’s it and that’s that.

Oops, Sorry. There Was One More Stop on The Hype Express: Exclusivityville

With one issue of Action Comics out, Ivan Reis has opted to make DC his home – the penciller has signed a two-year exclusive deal with the publisher.

According to Reis, it was DC who approached him with the intent of securing his services.

Meet the newest DC disciple at Newsarama

A smart idea on DC’s part, especially with his involvement in the Superman revival. Having to compete with Lee and still shining says a lot about Reis’s skill.

Focus Gives Comic Readers Hard Time

DC Comics has recently initiated a group of new comics collected under the imprint DC Focus. The stated intention of the line is to look at the concept of super powers from a new angle. Steve Gerber, well known for his groundbreaking work on Man-Thing, Howard the Duck and Void Indigo is the writer of Hard Time, launched un the DC Focus banner. It follows the youthful Ethan, as he finds himself in prison for his part in a high school shooting. Steve took time off from his work on the book to chat about the book.

Be sure to be de-loused at Silver Bullet Comics

The buzz on this book has been very confusing for me. Mathan and Entertainment Weekly show it much love. On the other hand, I have read several reviews that see the story as being didactic and that Gerber has lost his golden touch.

Of the Focus books, it is the only one I don’t have the slightest interest in. I know it is interesting in a column that has extensively covered the cancellation of two unique approaches to comics, to openly admit that I don’t read a comic that offers diversity to the comic fan.

It is like this. I read diverse books. Human Target, check, Powers, check, HERO, check. Heck, after Jock’s scathing indictment of idiocy and my friend Tim’s constant pressure, I finally buckled and checked out Losers. I am a man who does walk the walk as well as talk the talk. That being said, Hard Time has not interested me from the start and short of an endorsement from God himself, there is not much that’ll change my mind about that. And that’s okay too. Being a comic fan does not mean you have to support every diverse title regardless of your own tastes. Thus, confused or not, when it comes to Hard Time, I am just sitting it out.

Welcome to the International House of Un Gajje. May I take your order?