DC News & Views


We start off a somber note this week, but I promise that there will be some happy along the way too. First thing first though, we may pay our respects.

The Passing of Two Greats

Around noon on July 9, 2005, writer-editor-developer-publisher Byron Preiss was involved in a fatal auto accident as he drove to his synagogue in Long Island, New York-and American popular culture lost one of its most productive and visionary champions.

For the full obituary, as written by Jim Steranko, please stop by The Pulse

Unlike most of the greats that have passed since I started writing this column, I was lucky enough to meet Byron Preiss.

Last year, while covering the San Diego Comic Con, Ben and I were invited to the launch party for Scholastic Books release of Bone. Counting on free food and a chance to talk to Jeff Smith, we decided to go over. As Ben and I stood around, more than a little struck by the convention and being in the same restaurant as so many professionals, a man approached us, introduced himself as Byron Preiss and chatted us up a bit. He asked us who we were, what brought us out to San Diego, if this was our first Comic Con and so on. Eventually we got on to the topic of him, he told us all about iBooks and gave us each a copy of one of their new graphic novels to keep.

At the time, I’m sad to admit, I didn’t really understand the significance of meeting Preiss. I thought that he noticed we were press and decided to saddle up to us for some coverage. He was “there for the company” just like us. As it turned out, it was more likely that he saw a couple of guys who seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all and took the time to speak to us and kind of, for lack of a better way to put it, get us into the swing of things, the talking, schmoozing, etc. Truth be told, I’m not sure if we would have gotten to talk to Jeff or if I would have gotten hit on by that waitress if Mr. Preiss hadn’t taken the time to talk to us.

I’d probably spoken to him a maximum of four times since San Diego last year. He sent me another graphic novel at one point, just because the last time I had talked to him before that I had said it “sounded neat” or something to that effect. He was a class act through and through. It turns out that he was also a huge force in the industry.

To me though I expect he’ll always be the guy who took the time to chat up two star struck junior reporters from some fledgling website.

The Aparo Family has asked me to send this information out to all parties. It is with the deepest regret I have to inform you of the passing of the legendary Jim Aparo early Tuesday Morning, July 19, 2005. Mr. Aparo, who was 72, died from complications relating to a recent illness. All Funeral arrangements will be a private ceremony for Family and Friends of Jim.

For further information, please visit Comic Book Resources

For a very long time, when I pictured Batman it was either Michael Keaton or Aparo’s take on the Dark Knight that popped into my head. His work on Bats was so singular, how could your mind not conjure up an Aparo approved image on command? His depiction of Batman cradling the slain (until recently) Jason Todd is one of the most recognizable and powerful images in the modern history of Batman.

He’ll be missed.


Thank you all for indulging me there. Sometimes, I just need to say something, you know? Anyway, here’s the stuff you’re used. And extra points to anyone who can spot/tell me what the deal (you know, stars, plot, etc) is with the obscure real time film I name check this week.

Some Might Call it the “24” of Comics…I Prefer to Think of It as the “Nick of Time” of Comics

In June, we spoke with DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio about possibly the biggest bombshell to come to the DCU post-Infinite Crisis, that is, following Infinite Crisis all titles set in the DCU will jump forward one year in time, as part of something DiDio calls “One Year Later…”

DiDio promised that many, if not all titles would be reflecting significant changes as a result of the move ahead, be it new characters, now established and one year into their careers as heroes; different people under familiar masks; new alliances; new rivalries; new teammates; new cities for some heroes, and a change or tweak in just about everything else you can imagine.

Of course, as Newsarama asked, if you move things ahead one year, you’re left with one year’s worth of stories to tell. DiDio’s answer when asked if DC would be telling the story of the missing year? “Of course.”

And now, he’s able to fill in more of the details, not only about the when the story will be told, but the how.

The last question first: weekly. The working title, 52 – as in 52 weeks.

See how you’ll be spending the next year of your life at Newsarama

If nothing else, you’ve gotta give props to DC for bold moves (which, by the by, is how Alexander conquered Europe). A weekly book is a huge logistical undertaking, to say nothing of the creative aspect of the book.

The biggest downside is, obviously, the possible cost. DC still has to make a buck off this (not a literal dollar, but rather, simply, money), so they can’t charge say, 25 cents for each book, as sweet as that might be. On the other hand, charging the typical three dollars a book could prove rather brutal, especially if this is for the casual fan as well as the hardcore DC-er. So where is the line between profit (for the company) and cost prohibitive-ness for the fans? We’ll see what DC thinks soon enough.


WildC.A.T.S. Gets It’s Acronym Back…And It’s Artist

For the second time this week, it appears as if a Wizard promotional effort may have led to major news from one of the “Big Two” publishers inadvertently leaking out with less than optimum fanfare.

In the bios of their Guests of Honor for next month’s WizardWorld: Chicago convention, Jim Lee and Frank Miller, Lee’s bio indicates that in 2006 he will pencil a relaunch of his original Wildstorm creation WildC.A.T.S., to be written (according to this Wizard bio) by Grant Morrison.

But really, the acronym is more important at Newsarama

Yay for acronyms!

Ahem…sorry.

I am interested to see how this will be scheduled/fit in with Lee’s recent announcements at San Diego that indicate that he’ll be done with All Star when Miller is and that is looking at about 9 issues at this point. Plus, as he stated, he’s no fan of doing a book monthly. So that means either, they’ll hold back until he has a few in the can (a la Hush) or go with the 6 week (or more) shipping schedule.

Of course, since nothing has been confirmed yet, this could all be bollocks. But, I expect that it is legit.


Batman Goes Suburban

Steve Niles.

The guy who made horror cool again in comics.

And he’s brought back the classic horror monsters and stories in Wake The Dead, a Frankenstein-type remake; Hyde, Bigfoot and zombie tales in 30 Days of Night and its subsequent sequels and projects such as Dark Days, Return to Barrow and the Bloodsucker Tales series.

In October, he will be going trick-or-treating in the suburbs of Gotham City.

What happens when Steve Niles takes on The Dark Knight Detective?

Thrill to Batman having coffee with the soccer moms at Newsarama

The price for anything that isn’t a one shot in prestige format is always a touch rough. I mean, you’re looking at 6 dollars an issue to given the book a shot. It’s daunting, especially after getting burnt by Scarecrow: Year One.

Looking beyond the price, however, this might be one I pick. I haven’t read a lot of Niles work, but what I did I quite fancied. It’ll be interesting to see how his style melds with a well known and more “typical” comic property. It could be at Scarecrow: Year One level of quality, but then again it might just achieve The Nail level. I’ll play it by hear when the tie comes.


Identity Crisis Sells Out. Wait…Wha?

As the repercussions of IDENTITY CRISIS continue to rock the DCU, IDENTITY CRISIS #1 Final Printing (FEB050286) has sold out at DC Comics. This issue reprints the first chapter of the blockbuster miniseries written by New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, with art and a cover by Rags Morales & Michael Bair.

It’s déjà vu all over again at Newsarama

I could have sworn I covered this a little while ago, but I couldn’t find it in the archives, so here it is again. Apparently people love this book. Weird…I haven’t heard anything about it.


Renewing His Lease in Fabletown

Eisner Award-winning writer Bill Willingham, who has chalked up two more Eisner nominations this year, has renewed his exclusive contract with DC Comics for another 2 years. Willingham is the writer of the VERTIGO series FABLES and the DCU ‘ s DAY OF VENGEANCE and ROBIN.

Find out if Willingham’s place is rent controlled at Newsarama

Good call, DC. It is important to keep the writer of Fables (awesome) and Day of Vengeance (fun) in the fold. Sadly for you guys, in order to do this, you also had to re-sign the current writer of Robin. Well, you win some, you lose some, right?


People Love to Watch Things Fall Apart

JLA #115 (APR050343), the first chapter of the 5-part ” Crisis of Conscience ” storyline, has sold out at DC Comics. The story, written by Geoff Johns & Allan Heinberg with art by Chris Batista & Mark Farmer and a cover by Rags Morales & Farmer, spins out of IDENTITY CRISIS.

The JLA’s misery loves spectators at Newsarama

I didn’t love this installment, but I thought the second issue was quite money. Thus, I support this sell out (What?! You try commenting on #@$%^#$ sellouts at least once a week every week. It’s not fun.)


Hmm…What is This “Hype” You Speak Of

Let me get it out at the start – I’m not real shy about my love of DC, both their comics and their editorial policies. I’ve been pushing the Countdown books because I really believe in them because I’m a big fan myself. I really think that DC is taking some giant risks and they’re really making bigger waves in the comic industry than ever before. Not everyone is 100% behind Identity Crisis, Countdown and all the exciting moves DC is making, but I’m loving every second of it, and more importantly, so are my customers. There’s a lot of buzz building around these books and I think DC kept a lot of the concepts and ideas spinning out of Countdown closely guarded so that they didn’t hype something up for six months and then have it fall way flat of the hype. That’s why OMAC Project # 1 was so universally under-ordered, because no one knew how important it was to the overall story of the DCU until it was on sale.

Hibbs presents the con here at Newsarama

Newsarama note: Last week, we ran an op/ed piece by retailer Rick Shea about “Hype Fatigue” and the negative effect he feels it has had on Marvel’s summer event, House of M.

Obviously, not every retailer feels the same, and Shea’s opinion piece generated not one, but two rebuttals, one from Atomic Comics’ purchasing manager Bill Mitchel, and Phil Boyle, owner of the seven store Coliseum of Comics chain in Florida.

Mitchel and Boyle come right back with the pro at Newsarama

I put this in because a.) they are all great takes and the issue and b.) because it is a way to pimp my upcoming Words of Questionable Wisdom “On Hype” which should be up this week. Think of it as a companion piece to my “On Continuity” from a month or so back. Why am I writing it? Because I apparently love to court anger.


COMING ATTRACTIONS

FLASH #224

The Flash’s life through Zoom’s eyes? Old school Professor Zoom along for the ride? Am I excited for this? How can I not be?!

WONDER WOMAN #219

First off, OMAC!!!! crossover. Second…did you read the conclusion to the previous part of “Sacrifice”? Then you know why this is here. I think I know where this is going. I think it’s going to be pretty impressive. I think it’s what we call a “turning point.” I don’t want to miss a turning point this big.


OPINIONS ON THE WORK OF PEOPLE FAR MORE TALENTED THAN I

BIRDS OF PREY #84

Ahh, that Huntress. She has a sassy tongue, does she not? “I didn’t take you for a man who keeps his wallet in his front pocket.” “Off of sex. Like forever. With anyone.” She should probably go by the moniker of “Woman who Cuts Men to Ribbons with Her Sharp Tongue.” On the other hand, that is a touch unruly. So I guess Huntress is fine, if a touch inaccurate.

Bennett draws one weird looking Batman in this issue, but I was just so happy to see Batman being compassionate that I literally didn’t care. See? Batman can be all dark and moody and still be a concerned decent guy on occasion. Simone reconciles it with ease. The rest of you must do so immediately!

Best part of this great issue, bar none, is “I almost…I almost slapped you right in the face.” Just heartbreaking.

DAY OF VENGEANCE #4

The weakest installment of this series yet, I think. That’s weird since Willingham has made Chimp so entertaining and yet, when the story is narrated by him, there is very little funny. Black Alice’s father (and his interactions with the heroes and his daughter) are fun and away the most amusing parts of the issue. It just does a great job of merging the very ordinariness of suburbia with the fantastic. I expect he acts just like anyone would act in the DCU when faced with D (or what in Chimp’s case, R) grade superheroes: confusion and bewilderment, but never outright shock.

On the “serious” side of the story, I didn’t love Blue Devil Indy-esque moment with Enchantress. For one thing, I could have sworn someone already socked her. For another, given the conversation between she and Ragman, I really thought it was going to be a Ragman moment to shine. I would have enjoyed that more and I think it would have had more gravity.

Still a good mini though, just a bit off.

MANHUNTER #12

Wow…didn’t see that coming. I echo our Manhunter fan extraordinaire from the boards (yes, even more extraordinaire than I) in saying that I hope this doesn’t mean Dumas will be disappearing forever after this storyline. There’s been a great build, and an excellent reveal and it would be a shame to have him be a one storyline villain after all that.

But, let us not worry about the future yet. Let us instead talk about how great this issue was and how well Andreyko is still juggling the various subplots. We’ve got an appearance from “Grandpa” who may or may not be Kate’s dad and may or may not be Clint Eastwood. Wouldn’t it be great if he was both? The tabloid guy continues his diligent work, but Dylan notices him this time. Mr. Battles might have brushed it off then, but if he seems him again? Something tells me that this is going to get much more complicated for tabloid guy.

By the by, what is tabloid guy’s goal here? I mean, I know he wants a story revealing Kate, but revealing her as what, exactly? Does he have a clue or is it just that he knows something is wrong and figures if he chases that feeling enough he’ll find out what? It kind of occurred to me in reading this issue that he’s gathering pieces for a puzzle but he has no idea what the final product is supposed to look.

Anyway, there is also some great tete a tete between Spencer and the fan favorite Cameron Chase. I like how natural the guesting feels here and it is always a pleasure to see Chase again.

Oh, and Josiah Power and his sweet sweet sideburns show up too. And he has a nice, sly San Francisco joke.

Did I mention I love this book?

Did I mention that this review has run on too long?

TEEN TITANS #26

One of the greatest pleasures of being a comic fan, for me, are good one off (seemingly fill-in) issues. This is such an issue. It’s a very quick read and I don’t love the conclusion involving Krypto. I get what the moment is going for, I just don’t think it sold it. I would have loved a bit more Superboy interaction with either his past or Raven, perhaps in place of the teasing coda. Actually, as I write this, I find I am pulling it apart a lot more than I thought it would.

Let me take a step back then. This is a good issue that reads a bit fast and cursory. Still recommended however.

A better explanation of my perspective? I hope so.

EX MACHINA #13

What can I say? The Eisners don’t lie, this is one of the best books on the shelves. This issue just furthers that truth.


****REVIEWS FROM THE FUTURE****

Sadly, for now, this feature has to go a little dormant. I’ll bring it back from time to time when I get lucky and get a hand on some First Looks, but for now, my primary source dried up. Sorry. Wayne’s (the nicest man in comics) sorry too. This will still pop up from time to time though, don’t worry.


WELCOME TO THE REVAMPING

This one comes straight off the message boards (see dreams really do come true) so you guys have Dhaise and A Faceless Name to thank for this revamp of…

Azrael

Anyone who has grown up with Batman in the 10-15 years should be rather familiar with the character named Azrael. Jean Paul Valley was a geeky, isolated college student who was one day “activated” as the soldier of a radical religious sect called the Order of Saint Dumas. With this activation came a flaming sword, a uniform, and a subconscious set of abilities called the System. The geek became the warrior with what amounted to the flip of the switch.

From there, Valley’s life got considerably more complicated. He was taken under the Shadow of the Bat for a time before becoming the new Batman in the wake of Knightfall. After growing increasingly erratic and violent, Bruce Wayne returned, removing Valley from the position. From this disappointment, Azrael would rise again.

Eventually, Azrael returned to the fold as a so-called “Agent of the Bat”. He served in this capacity until the conclusion of the series when he, apparently, died. But if he’s dead, where’s the body…

So where does the legacy of St Dumas go from here?

A producer, Erica Wentworth, at her wits end in seeking properties to develop has taken to raiding used bookstores and online auctions for stories that no one else is aware. And if they are in the public domain, all the better. In one such auction, she acquires a book from the Order of Saint Dumas (found after the destruction of the Ice Cathedral, no doubt).

She quickly finds himself greatly intrigued with the Order. She cannot possibly use it for a movie, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make money off it. With the help of a director friend, Thomas Barauch, she founds a sect of The Order of Saint Dumas in LA. Part religion, part self improvement movement (think of how Hollywood has viewed/utilized the Kaballah, Scientology, yoga, etc) it quickly gains popularity.

While Wentworth has stopped studying the Dumas book, Barauch continued and began to uncover the secrets of the Dumas’ fiery red hand, Azrael. He views the System as the means towards a “perfect actor”: an individual of great physical presence who is totally programmable to a director’s wishes. No scandals, no prima donna acts, nothing but cooperation for the “glory” of the picture.

Setting about to realize this dream, Barauch finds the perfect candidate in Martin Barnes, a 28 year old has been. Barnes gives himself over to the process and a year later he is once again sitting on top of the world. Barauch has his “actor”.

The System, of course, is not that simple. Barnes is experiencing blackouts, moments of “automatic” drawing or building in which he conceives costumes and weapons that he was never seen. Then there is the matter of the mysterious wave of vigilantism that has seized Los Angeles…

Meanwhile, someone else is trying to revive the Order with much more faithfulness. Lilhy, disciple turned betrayer turned last “true” believer, has spent many years resurrecting the Order after it was dismantled (with her help) and has achieved the creation of her first Azrael since the demise of Valley. When she finds out about the Order’s religious revival in America, she is less than pleased. Even worse is when she notices a pattern in that aforementioned spat of vigilante incidents, a pattern involving a flaming sword. Can it be long before she sends her champion to America to cease the dishonoring of Dumas’ name?

And, where does Valley fit into all of this? Are rumors of his demise, in fact, greatly exaggerated?


Well, there we go. Another stirring installment of News & Views come and gone. E-mail me (because you know you want to) at parallax2@juno.com or disparage my name right here on the Nexus’s very own message board. Thanks in advance for all your comments. See you Thursday for Who’s Who and then back here next week so we can rock this all over again.

Un Gajje owns Nick of Time. No…seriously. Stop laughing.