Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the effect of holiday cheer on escaped convicts

As we celebrate another holiday season, with its bustle and commercialism, it is all too easy to forget the man who was born this day.  A man who dedicated his life to making this a better world, and who was taken from us all too soon, leaving behind faithful people who copy his actions and mimic his words in an attempt to keep alive his lessons.

I refer, of course, to Humphrey Bogart.

As part of the Humphrey Bogart Blogathon, a whole bunch of folks are reviewing some of Bogie's films.  Most are picking the low-hanging fruit, and classics like Maltese Falcon and Casablanca were grabbed quickly.  The Wife is doing The Big Sleep, which is practically two movies - an early example (maybe the first for all I know) of a film that underwent a major re-write and came out a very different film at the other end of the process.

I chose a film that not only gave The Trenchcoated One a rare chance to show off his comedic muscles, but actually took place at this jolly time of year, allowing to serve not only as a contribution to the communal showing-off of trivia, but as a Christmas post as well.

We're No Angels (1955) was originally a play by Samuel and Bella Spewack, who among other things wrote the book for Kiss Me Kate.  It stars Bogie, Aldo Ray and the eternally delightful Peter Ustinov as three men who escape, just before Christmas,  from the Cayenne Penal Colony in French Guyana (colloquially known as Devil's Island).  They are hiding in plain sight in the town below, passing as parolees.  Their plan is to steal clothes from a local general store, fake up some papers and get outta the proverbial Dodge on a steamship anchored off coast, currently quarantined.

They enter the establishment of Felix Ducotel (Leo G Carroll) a man with a soft heart and a head to match, under the pretense of offering to fix his leaking roof.  As they spy from above, they learn the life of a mercantile owner is not a jolly one - he and his wife (Joan Bennett) are near ruin, what with his insistence on extending credit to everyone on the island.  His daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott) is pining for The One She Left Behind, a kissing cousin for whom she still holds a torch.  The three desperate men almost feel sorry for the family, commenting that there are more than one type of prison.  Things get worse, alas - Felix' cousin, and owner of the shop, Andre (Basil Rathbone) is out on the quarantined steamer, coming to review the store's books.  With him is his nephew Paul, Isabelle's beau, but he's been betrothed to the son of a shipping magnate.  Scarecely a merry Christmas.

The trio determine to do what they can to make the family's season bright - The beg borrow and (mostly) steal the trappings and settings for a proper Christmas dinner, so they can have fun while they can before Andre arrives. He arrives all too soon, demands to see the books and heads for bed.  And if wasn't for the fact that the convicts' pet adder Adolphe is in his bedroom, things would go quite badly indeed.  Bogie whips up a new will that names both Felix and Paul as heirs.  But it turns out that Paul is as big of a prat as Andre was, and promptly burns the will.  No worries - he finds Adolphe before our boys do, and considering they just came of a quarantined ship, two sudden deaths are as easy to explain as one.

This isn't a laugh-out-loud comedy, more the quiet smile at the wicket they've stuck themselves in variety.  There's a wonderfully slow scene as the three decide what they should do considering the fact that Andre has, unbeknownst to him, a deadly snake in his possession.  They slowly and deliberately choose which of the three should hurriedly rush in and warn him, eventually choosing to cut for the honor.  Bogie wins, starts a frenzied amble for the door, only to return, confessing he's forgotten the message.

What's fascinating about this film, aside from it being so entertaining,  is the fact that there's not a member of the main cast who hasn't appeared in one or two classic genre projects.  Even Bogie was in The Return of Doctor X.  Joan Bennett reached (in many eyes) her highest fame as grande dame of the Collins clan in Dark Shadows, and in her last film she played the first of Argento's Three Sisters in Suspiria.  Talbott is easily recognizable, even those horrofic bangs, as the titular "I" in I Married a Monster From Outer Space.  Rathbone was in too many horror and Sci-Fi films to even tabulate, and Aldo Ray had a great (albeit short) role as a man who follows orders to the letter in George Pal's The Power, a favorite in this home.  Ustinov did work in the genre years later, as the old man in Logan's Run.

While DVD copies of the film are going for collector's prices, it's available for electronic download and rental at Amazon.  It doesn't show up on TV at this season nearly as often as it used to, which may very possibly be connected to the fact that it is available for electronic download and rental at Amazon.

As a postscript, I note that the film's Wiki page starts with the disclaimer, "This article is about the 1955 film. For the 1989 film, see We're No Angels (1989 film)."  I cannot express enough how important it is that you do not follow Wikipedia's advice.

Friday, November 18, 2011

On great comic songs through history

OK, fair warning - this list probably doesn't have YOUR favorite superhero song. Over seventy years, there have been a lot of songs written about comic book and comic strip heroes. There's been musicals by the (wait for it...) score, like Annie, Lil' Abner, It's a Bird, It's a Plane It's Superman and even Doonesbury. There have been novelty numbers, serious songs, and some tunes so iconic they ended up in the movie adaptation of the hero decades after their creation. Ana amazing assortment of artists have contributed music to superhero films; even Jim Steinman (indisputable mastermind behind Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell series) did a rendition of "Original Sin" for The Shadow.  And some years later, he got to write a few songs for the  Batman musical that Tim Burton was working on.  I write a bit about that over here on my Tumblr feed, where I post smaller points and thoughts.

Here's a short list of a few songs inspired by the comics you've likely heard of, and hopefully a few you haven't.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On The Man Who Got Plentiful Variants

The custom cover variant has become the new iteration of the marketing gimmick that is the alternate cover.  If a store buys enough copies of a book, the publisher will print a custom cover featuring the store's name.  IDW did it for Godzilla, and Marvel just did it for Spider-Man.

Nice way to get your customers excited, only slightly more controversial than the idea of gimmick covers in the first place, a topic upon which I have spoken before. Now, the goal in doing a variant cover is to entice buyers to buy EACH of the covers to keep their collections "complete".  But in this case, we're talking about dozens of covers, spread out to individual stores across the country.  Surely the attempt to collect a full set of those covers would be impossible. Right?


Bleeding Cool shares with us the exploits of Dough Boy (whose name, I must assume, refers more to his wallet than his physical consistency) who successfully collected a set of all 144 variant covers to Spider-Man #666.  I shall quietly point out that 144 = 1 gross.  Sometimes the English language is kind to writers.

Through a combination of trolling eBay, calls to individual shops and requests via Facebook for people to pick up copies for him locally (One cover was only available in Japan, for example) he was able to collect a full set for just shy of twelve hundred dollars.  Now, there's a definite sense of accomplishment in doing something that no one else has been able to do.  But IMHO, there's a greater sense of accomplishment when there's a large number of people who would WANT to do it. There's a lot of entries in the Guinness Book of World Records for things that damn near nobody would ever bother to try to do, let alone beat, except for the sole fact of it would get them in the Guinness Book of World Records.

I am in no position to cast the first stone here.   I have in my possession a complete run of the American Perry Rhodan books (Yes, including the Master Publications magazine releases - who wants to touch me?) a complete run of The Destroyer, and am one shy of a complete run of Doc Savage Paperbacks (Double edition 117 - 118, since you asked). Similarly, I have multiple editions of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series, as well as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, including the "bootleg" Ace editions.  But those were out of my love for the books and series in question.  This seems much more like an attempt to Do What Has Not Been Done, as opposed to some spontaneous show of affection for the issue.

But back the industry.  These are the two most intriguing paragraph's from the over-moneyed and under-goaled gentleman's story:

One thing became clear during the chase...retailers for the most part were not prepared for the onslaught of communications from completionists.  I contacted numerous retailers who said they would get back with me whom never did, or did so after a month.  It was great to contact most retailers who understood the desire to own them all and they were more than happy to sell a copy at a reasonable rate and ship it.

There were some retailers who would refuse to communicate with non-local consumers, some retailers who would not mail under any circumstance, and some retailers who decided they were going to jack their cost way up to take advantage of the completionists.

Now in honesty, even though the cover price of a variant book is the same as a regular cover, it does cost more to the store, because in most cases they have to buy quite a few other titles just to get the right to buy the variant.  So if a particular cover requires the purchase of fifty copies of the standard cover, as an example, that one book effectively cost the store the cost seventy-five dollars or so, based on the average discount they get.  So if they never sell all those standard covers, they have to charge at least that much for the variant simply to break even.  The same holds true of "chase" trading cards - someone had to open a box or a case full of cards to find that card, so the cost needs to reflect that expense, since the majority of those other cards will not sell.

So I don't see it as "taking advantage" of the customer to charge a premium for these rare items.  If anyone is taking advantage, it's the publishers, taking advantage of the collector mentality of the market.

But let's look at the other times that a store will attract new customers.  When a book makes the papers, say when Captain America or Batman died, and then returned a few months later, or the Spider-Man / Barack Obama issue.  Those weren't variant issues, they were regular issues of a monthly title.  But they made the papers, so stores get besieged by newcomers keen on getting that book.  At that point, the stores have two basic choices:
  1. Make hay while the sun shines, work under the assumption that they'll never see these people again, and get what they can for this one-time sale
  2. See this as a possibility to get more regular customers, make up some coupons for a percentage off their NEXT visit, get a bunch of stuff on sale while the newcomers are coming through, and aim for more long-term income.

I think it's safe to safe to say the lion's share of stores went with plan one.

The best way, I feel, for a store to benefit from the variants and heavily publicized books is in getting new regular customers, and maybe a bit of press for yourself.  Say you score one of these hot variant covers.  You could slap a hundred-dollar price tag on it (and settle for a fraction of that a year or two from now), or you could, say, raffle it off, and donate the proceeds to a local children's hospital or charity.  One phone call to the local paper could get you a photo in the leisure section, which could attract more folks to your store.  Make sure your local TV station knows about the next hot comic, and see if you can finagle yourself an interview about it.  The media is very lazy - once they have your name and number, it's amazing how they'll declare you the local expert and consult you when any comic-related story crosses their desk.

I know it's hard to overlook that short-term payday, but with all the things happening to the industry today, anything you can do to increase your market, or at least your potential market, is a good thing to try. 

As an aisde, I'm rather pleased that at no point in this post did I accidentally misspell "variants" as "varmints".  That would have been way too Freudian.

Monday, October 3, 2011

On how we strive for Nick and Nora, but settle for Rob and Laura

This blog  post is a part of the Dick van Dyke Show blogathon, hosted by the folks at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear. Click the link to see a list of other folks touching on the same topic today.

I went the opposite direction from most kids.  I knew that what I saw on TV was pretend.  In fact, I knew this so well, I assumed that save for the news, EVERYTHING on TV was pretend, including cities. I assumed that not only were the people fictional, the places were as well. I mean I knew there was a New York City, but I knew there was no 704 Houser St. 

So this is why, until I was about 20, I didn't know New Rochelle was a real place.

I was driving up to Yonkers with The (eventually) Wife, saw a sign for the exit to New Rochelle, and honestly said "You mean it's actually a place?"  She looked at me like I had lobsters on my face.  "But that's where Rob and Laura Petrie lived!"  She assured me it was indeed a place, and the doors of my world opened just a bit wider.

The Dick Van Dyke show was one of my favorite sitcoms as I was growing up. I first saw Mr. Van Dyke (As most kids my age did) in Mary Poppins, and while the show was  far sight from the movie, it became regular viewing for me.Rob and Laura had the kind of relationship The Wife and I have - we have fun, we overreact to things, and while neither of write for a comedy show, we're as witty as the cast of the show.  As the title says, as much as we'd like to be Nick and Nora Charles (Heck, I'd settle for Ralph and Sue Dibny, without all the unpleasantness at the end, of course), we more often than not end up as Rob and Laura.

I've said for many years that Dick Van Dyke is an under-appreciated actor.  I've written about two of his films at The Wife's blog:  Cold Turkey, a vicious little bit of satire about a small town trying to quit smoking en masse to win a twenty five million dollar prize, and Fitzwilly, a caper flick with Dick as a con man butler who rooks the upper class of New York City, all to keep his bankrupt dowager boss from going to the poorhouse.  Neither feature much of his trademark physical comedy, but a lot more of his acting chops.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was much more the work of Carl Reiner, who created the show and appeared as Alan Brady, eponymous star of the show for which Rob wrote.  The show was clearly based on Reiner's work as a writer for the legendary Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar.  The show featured a true Murderer's Row of writers - Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and many others cut their teeth on that show.  Carl's not the only one to dig into the show for inspiration - Neil Simon wrote Laughter on the 23rd Floor and Mel Brooks produced My Favorite Year, a fictional tale based in that legendary writer's room.  Few remember the short lived sitcom starring ex-Roseanne beau Tom Arnold called The Jackie Thomas Show, but after one episode I realized it was essentially an update of the Dick Van Dyke Show, but with the Alan Brady character taking more of a center role. Indeed, the same could be said of 30 Rock as well.

Picking a favorite episode of this series borders on the impossible.  But I knew there was going to be a near riot for the right the do "It only Looks Like a Walnut" (Brandie got it over at True Classics) so I went with another flying saucer epic, "Uhnny Uftz"

"Who's Sonny Tufts?"
Rob, Buddy and Sally are pulling an all-nighter at the office, and while the others are out getting coffee, Rob hears an unearthly sound and sees a flying saucer outside the window of his office.  Buddy and Sally return too late to see it, and assume Rob was asleep and dreamed it.  Rob is adamant, even as he explains that the saucer had lightning bolts on it like the comic strip star Brick Bradford, and the eerie ship spoke, saying what sounded like "Sonny Tufts".

Laura is no more receptive to Rob's tale, and chides him gently.  He gets no further when he reports the sighting to the government, and when his psychologist friend assures him that he really did likely imagine it, he lets it pass.  But after another all-nighter the next evening, Rob hears and sees it again.  This time, however, Buddy returns in time to hear the Gas Music From Jupiter, which they determine is now coming from somewhere upstairs in the building.

Exploring the floor above, they are confronted by a man who seems to know about the saucer, and is most distressed that it had any witnesses.  After a seemingly threatening request to enter his office, he reveals that there really is a saucer, but it's a toy, and the secrecy is to make sure the invention isn't stolen before Christmas.  Rob and Buddy agree to keep mum i exchange for one favor - a five minute chance to spin the thing around the room.

Dick Van Dyke gets the chance to do a bit of schtick, lots of fright reactions and bit of work up on the office windowsill.  He also excels at talking to himself, and has a fun scene as he listens to perfectly normal sounds that seem terrifying at three in the morning when you're only person in a huge office building.

Two notable guest stars in the episode - Madge "Aunt Harriet" Blake as a batty lady at the Metro North station who claims to have seen the saucers as well, and that little old toymaker was John Mylong, who played the elder scientist in the infamous masterpiece Robot Monster.

This is an episode I saw the first half of as a kid at my grandmother's house, and had to head for home before the payoff.  I didn't see the end of the episode for almost ten years, so needless to say I was primed to learn the secret of the mysterious saucer.

I've done a lot of things...but I would never Uhnny Uftz you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On the untapped potential of a world with seventy years of superheroes

Last time I talked about the past of Earth-Two. This time I'm going to talk about its future.

I've discussed it before - the "Sliding years" theory.  The idea that all the years of comic book adventures you've ever read of any character all took place in a far more compressed time period, and took place in the past few years, as opposed to the fixed point in the past when it was originally published.  Case in point - the Fantastic Four were first published forty years ago, but in the internal fictional timeline of the Marvel Universe, they haven't been active for that long.  Back in the 80's John Byrne opined the period was seven years; now, another couple decades later, it could be as much as twelve to fifteen years, as Grant Morrison has estimated for Batman's career.

For TV fans, look at this way - All the episodes of M*A*S*H, ten years of them, had to have all taken place during the three-year period of the Korean War.  So you have to (you should pardon the expression) mash events together - several of the Christmas episodes were all the SAME Christmas, for example, just different looks at different events.

In the new post Flashpoint world of the DCU, the period has been shrunk back to about five years.  So not only did a lot of the stories we've read not had time to happen, the world as a whole has barely had time to get used to the idea of superheroes, and be changed by them.

Depending on how old you are, think back to big things that happened to the world in the past, and how amazing they were, and how long it took the world to get used to them.  Stuff like the fall of the Berlin Wall, people on the moon, even the Internet; think about how the world changed to adapt, to add these events into its paradigm.  Five years isn't that long. There's still going to be people who are suspicious of superheroes, some who still think they're all a hoax.

Now envision a world that has had superheroes for seventy years.

Earth-2 is back, and with it, the Justice Society of America, who fought crime, and the Axis, in World War II.  In the old days, the all or nothing days, the Pre-Crisis Days, "Earth-Two" was that world - the JSA fought as far back as WWII, and never stopped.  Some people took up the job inspired by them, some heroes had kids who joined the family business, and generally, it was a very different world from the main Earth of the DCU.

That alone is a great reason to bring it back.  It's the opportunity to generate a parallel brand, in the way that Marvel has the Ultimate line, and the WWE have Raw and Smackdown.  Make them different enough, and you'll have fans of each one separately. One of the problem with the DCU is they've got so many great characters, there's no place to find a spot in the limelight.  It's EXACTLY why the WWE broke up their two shows.  Two champions, two rosters, twice the chance to rise to the top.  The Marvel Ultimate Universe is basically the same characters twice, with different histories and different stories being told about them.  Earth 1 and 2 can be ENTIRELY different worlds, with wholly different heroes. 

Assuming they don't get their own Superman again (and I hope they don't), who would be the most powerful hero of Earth-2?  My guess is, we haven't met him yet. And that's AMAZINGLY cool.  On the whole, save for Dr. Fate and The Spectre, the general power level of the Earth-2 heroes was quite a bit lower.  There were a lot more costumed humans than there were super-humans.  That was mainly because in the early days of comics, they simply hadn't stretched their imaginative wings far enough yet.  But if you take one of Dan Didio's comments to its extreme, if a less powerful Superman, one who could be injured, is more dramatic and exciting, than a normal human who chose to train a bit and put on tights can be even MORE dramatic, no?  We could see a lot more of that in a new Earth-2.

You know who would be PERFECT on Earth-2. Ted Fucking Kord.  On Earth-1, characters like Blue Beetle were utterly overshadowed by the top echelon on power. But on a more "Down-to-Earth" Earth?  He could be near the top.  So too characters like Gangbuster.

Let's think about the social effect  that the existence of seventy years of actual Superheroes would have on a world.  Consider - right now, in this world, becoming a superhero is officially the act of a crazy person.  And we have dozens of them.  On our Earth, you tell your parents you want to be a superhero when you grow up, they either pat you on the head, or take you to the psychiatrist.  On DCnU-Earth, they'd say, "One of those crazy people?  You'll break your neck!"  Say it on Earth-2, and they'll say, Well, you better drink your milk and finish your homework, they don't let lazy-bones in the Justice Society".  "Superhero" is a valid and viable career option

In the more educated to the concept audience that modern readers have, a really bold writer could take the alternate history to amazing lengths.  Roy Thomas was ever forced to come up with reasons why the JSA didn't all just to fly over to Germany and kick Hitler's ass. He created the magical barrier, created by the Spear of Destiny, which prevented the Amerikanisher Schweiner from entering the theater of war. 

Now, imagine a world where they could.  The war never got as far as it did, the A-bomb was never dropped. Aliens have been attacking earth for decades, and we collect up the technology, reverse-engineer it and advance humankind at quantum speed.  The present of Earth-2 might not be a Utopia, but it could be a very interesting place to be.

If DC brings back Earth-2 exactly as it was, how many readers is that going to attract?  Well, what was the print run of the last issue of JSA that came out last week?  THAT'S how many.  It's not going to pull any old-time fans back - the ones that want the JSA back that badly are still reading comics.

But a world that has had superheroes for almost a century, and has been growing and changing as a result of it for all that time?  A world lifted and changed, literally on the shoulders of heroes?  They can SELL that.

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the return of an old friend, and the six billion people living on it

Earth-Two. Say it to an older comic fan (raises hand) and watch their eyes well up.

When superhero comics first appeared in the 40s, heroes from the three companies that eventually became DC Comics teamed up and formed the Justice Society of America.  The team appeared till the end of 1950, when the superhero genre as a whole started to wither, save for the "Trinity" characters, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, who kept right on going.

Six and change years later, DC decided it was time to bring the superheroes back. But rather than revive the existing characters, they chose to create new ones with the same names and similar powers.  They started with The Flash, in Showcase #4.  As a tip of the hat to the characters of the past, it was revealed that the new Flash, Barry Allen, read The Flash comics, and that was why he was inspired to become a superhero, as opposed to, I dunno, getting to a doctor and having himself checked out after getting doused with chemicals and lightning.

That's a facet of Barry Allen that gets rather short shrift today - he was a comics fan.  He read and collected comics, and was inspired to do good by them.  More than ever before, this was a hero fans could identify with.

Showcase did very well, and a continuing Flash title soon followed, as did new "Silver Age" versions of lots of other characters.  And a very interesting thing happened.  DC started getting letters from readers who wondered what had happened to those older characters, and if they could see them again.  This rather surprised DC, who assumed that the comics readership was  constantly rotating, and that in the past six years all the old readers had long since moved on.

So they had a brainwave.  In keeping with the more science-based motif of the new books, they explained that the adventures of the heroes of World War Two took place on a parallel earth, like ours in many ways, but with a slightly different history, namely with superheroes appearing in the pre-WWII era.  They even had their own "Trinity" heroes, which neatly explained how Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman could have fought Hitler and still look just the same in the mid-50s.

So Barry Allen met Golden-Age Flash Jay Garrick in the nigh-legendary "Flash of Two Worlds", and started a tradition that would last twenty years.  Soon the entire Justice League of America met their Earth-Two counterparts, the Justice Society, and would every year for decades.

They didn't stop there.  Earth-Three was an evil opposite of the other earths, with the super-powered denizens their worst criminals.  As other companies' comics characters were purchased over the years, they usually got their own Earth, to explain how their adventures could have happened.  The Quality Comics characters like The Ray and Phantom lady were put on Earth-X, another "Alternate History" Earth, one where World War Two was still raging into the eighties, which gave their heroes, the Freedom Fighters, a chance to keep doing contemporary stories against the Nazis.  When DC licensed the Fawcett characters, They ended up on Earth-S, for "Shazam".  The Charlton characters got their own earth for all of five minutes or so, as it was introduced and destroyed mere pages apart in Crisis in Infinite Earths.

Crisis (so important is it in DC History, it can universally be spoken of as a single capitalized word) was intended to "simplify" the "Complicated" history of the DCU.  The whole multiple Earth thing was seen as daunting to new readers, which the company certainly wanted to attract.  So Crisis wiped the slate clean.  There was now only ONE Earth, upon which the JSA fought during WWII (albeit without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman), and some decades later, modern heroes appeared, some bearing the same names as the earlier heroes.

Of course, that meant that a great number of stories no longer "happened", or happened with different details.  Many events happened at a different period, and indeed, even Crisis, which we'd just read, was now substantially different in continuity than as we'd just read it.

Sound familiar?

The JSA was the biggest casualty of the event.  Aside from being slapped into a history they never made, it was decided that the characters were too old for the readership, and in a story released around the same time as Crisis, they volunteered to fight an eternal battle in a magic dimension to stave off Ragnarok.

I don't know how "complicated" the idea of parallel worlds is, especially to a reader of comics and science fiction. I first learned about Earth Two when I was seven, specifically in Flash #229.  It was explained in one panel, and it made PERFECT sense. I didn't know who who this "Jay Garrick" jasper was, but the idea of a whole 'nother Earth full of heroes was amazingly cool, and sealed me to DC even more.  I mean, Marvel just had the ONE Earth, and everyone on it seemed so...depressed.

(Dig the way they drew Earth-Two for a while, with the land and sea-masses reversed.  I can only imagine the ecological nightmare of an earth with twice as much land as water...)

After just about the same period of time as their last break from action, the JSA were brought back again and given a new series which was VERY quickly cancelled, to the surprise of the fannish community.  They were then soundly put down in a later event, Zero Hour, Crisis in Time, where a number of them were killed in battle.

But you can't keep a good team down.  After yet ANOTHER event, Infinite Crisis, the team was revived again, this time under the hand of James Robinson, and shortly thereafter, one Geoff Johns. 

Immediately after Infinite Crisis, a weekly title, 52, made the revelation that parallel Earths were back.  Not the full-blown multiverse of the past, but a set of 52 Earths, most of which have been identified.  They're not the SAME worlds of the pre-Crisis multiverse, but many are very similar.  There's a version of the Marvel Family on Earth 5 (instead of "S") alternate versions of the Charlton heroes on Earth 4, and the Quality characters on Earth 10 (instead of "X", the Roman numeral for 10), also featuring Nazi versions of other DC heroes. 

Note that while the Pre-Crisis Earths were spelled out, the "Post 52" Earths use numbers.  That was a deliberate choice to show the difference between the two versions.

And there's an Earth-2, which features a different version of the JSA from the one on the "main" earth, alternately known as either New Earth or Earth-0.  It had the most similar history to its pre-Crisis counterpart. It looked for all the the world to be the Pre-Crisis Earth-Two a world in which the timeline continued on after Crisis. A story Geoff Johns wrote for the JSA annual had Power Girl return there, and we got a look at what looked essentially like Earth-Two would have looked like if it had survived Crisis.  tantalizing, to say the least.

Well, now there's been one more event, Flashpoint, and this time, the JSA have been wiped off the board entirely.  The first superheroes in the world are the modern versions of Superman, Batman, Green lantern, et al, and what's more, even their histories only go back five years.

Fandom's reaction was white-hot and brutal.  Fans were not ready to let these characters get taken away again.  But never fear; DC wasn't going to wait another six years this time.  Even before the book in which the reboot happened could be released, DC announced that the JSA would indeed be back, in a new project written by James Robinson, and drawn by Nicola Scott.

But didn't they just get finished telling us that the JSA was gone from the new history?  Yep.  The JSA were moving back to their traditional home, Earth-2.

I'll lay odds some folks wept openly.

But here's the question I've been asking...Is it going to be Earth-2...or Earth-Two?

Either way, it's going be a fun adventure.

In part two of this rambling I'm going to talk about how if they play their cards right, and take advantage of the opportunity of a blank slate, Earth-2 could end being DC's Ultimates universe.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the end of Flashpoint, and the start of a New Universe

Right, well THAT'S over.

Flashpoint has brought the DCU that I grew up with, the one that all of my childhood memories are connected to, have been brought to an end.  The various books tried to bring their stories to a nice coda, and all told they did a good job.

Flashpoint #5 brought this latest event to an end, and started off the new DC Universe.  While it took place in a world greatly unlike our own, it was ultimately a story of two men, Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne.

Interesting bookend - at two times in his life, Barry causes chaos by attacking the Reverse-Flash in the timestream.  Once by "killing" him in the original run of his book, and now by trying to undo the massive changes Thawne had  made to time.

I don't like the idea that Barry doesn't get his parents back. From the moment that was changed in Flash: Rebirth, I didn't care for it.  Barry Allen was always the character in the DCU having the most fun.  He was married, had a nice set of parents, and an addlepated father-in-law.  Of all the heroes, he was the one most likely to be smiling.  But the events of rebirth had him saddled with a horrific history - now his Mom was killed, presumably by his father, who was taken to jail for it.  What a change!  But once it was revealed, gloatingly, that the Reverse-Flash was responsible for it, it was almost unfair that it couldn't be undone.

Perhaps the info in Flash #1 will prove me mistaken, but the end of FP #5 has me thinking his parents are still dead, he knows that Thawne is responsible for their death, he remembers his history of the alternate timeline, but might not recall that Thawne is dead. Not as satisfying an ending for him as I'd like.You could argue that Thawne won, dead or no.  And he's a time traveler; there's really nothing stopping him from coming back.

The tie-in books were as advertised - they were entirely ancillary, and did not have to be read at all to further the plot of the main book.  While they were all interesting, I can't say I agreed with the choices of who got books and  who didn't.  I'd have happily traded Legion Of Doom for, say, a S!H!A!Z!A!M! mini.  The two I enjoyed the most were Project: Superman and The Outsider.  I would not mind seeing either The Outsider or Project Zero make their way to the DCnU.

My biggest disappointment of the tie-ins was Booster Gold, not because of any failings in the story, but for what I presumed / hoped his role would be.  Being as they went to such lengths to point out that his was the only regular title crossing into Flashpoint, I took that to mean he'd play more of a role in the proceedings.  But ultimately, he faced Doomsday (again - that is a character that has absolutely been overused, and one I will not miss.), tapped into Flash's Speed Force, and went home. Didn't get to fix anything, didn't even get to save the girl.

Oh yes...the girl.  Alexandra had parasite-like powers, and at the moment before she, oh let's say "Died", Booster was trying to travel through time. And then a mysterious figure wrote the words on Rip's blackboard, and at the tie same time a mysterious hooded figure helps guide Barry to the right path to fixing things as near as can be.

Connection?  Who the hell knows?

The mysterious hooded lady is clearly the beginnings of another over-arc.  Not an event, per se - Dan Didio has sworn blind we won't get one of those for some time. But she's already been sighted in preview copies of other first issues, so she certainly seems to have a role to play.

Justice League #1 looked very promising, and was a very nice start to the new Universe.  It had a couple clunkers ("He combusted into fire"...peewwww) but it did a good job of giving the feel of how things now are. 

There's not a single title I don't want to give a fair look, there's several I'm quite keen on, and a few I'm right chuffed about. 

There's still a LOT of questions I have about the timeline of the DCnU.  With only five or so years of history in place, there's simply no time for ALL the events we've read about to have happened, either in whole or in part.  The lesser event books alone are likely all gone - I will not be sad to see Armageddon 2001 to go out the door, and Amazons Attack...please. 

I may try to go into more detail about these questions over the next week, but let's just ask about a few tentpoles here...

Who's died? The events of Batman RIP have likely occurred, as they funneled directly into Batman Inc, which is firmly underway as this new world starts up before us.  But was it still at the hands of Darkseid?  Did Final Crisis happen as we read it, if at all? 

Superman?  Did he die at the hands of Doomsday and come back?  We know Superboy's origin is all new now; Is Steel in the DCnU, or just some iteration of John henry Irons? 

Or what about Hal Jordan?  Geoff Johns did a great job or winnowing away the effects of Emerald Twilight from Hal's life - maybe this is the chance to wipe it away entirely?  If Superman didn't die, did Hank Henshaw destroy Coast City?  Hal could still have been possessed by Parallax and gone on a bit of a tear, but could have been stopped before he died.  We know Kyle Rayner has a ring in the new continuity, but who's to say he got it the same way, as a result of the same exact tragedy?

Let's go back to the first big one - with only one Flash in current continuity (that we know of - they're being deucedly cagey about Wally), did he ever die?  Did Crisis ever happen?  If not, Flash may never have died, which means that even more of the events of Final Crisis are under flux.

A lot of questions.  In full fairness, not all require an answer to permit enjoyment of the new books, but when people have upwards of 70 years of continuity in their heads, it's a fair question to ask how much of it will be of value in the future, as opposed to just being useful in talking about the past.

Which I expect I'll do a lot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On the latest threat to the survival of the Comics Industry. Not.

The folks at Newsarama posted an article today with the provocative title, "Will digital comics KILL Comic stores?"

This is a question that had gotten a lot of talk over the last few weeks, since both DC and Marvel have announced that their books (Some of Marvel's, all of DCs) would go digital on the same day as print.  And after some thought, and some actual research, I am prepared to give my answer.

No. next question.

The only thing that will kill the comic store is the dwindling number of comic readers.  Explain to me how adding new customers will cause an industry to diminish.

You can't buy trade paperbacks digitally. Nor T-shirts, nor action figures or any of the other things you can buy at a comic shop, save for the monthly books themselves.

Bob Wayne had it exactly right - if a store is experiencing diminished sales as a result of either the lame duck session until September, or due to the New 52, they're not doing ther jobs right as a retail outlet.  The same holds tru for digital.

The savvy store will embrace digital, link up with the comixology site, offer special discounts and deals on items for digital customers, and very possibly do better than ever.  The short-sighted store will curse the darkness, shake its fist, get caught up on all those issues that have been piling up, and wait for the next death issue to get spoiled in USA Today a day early so they can jack up the prices on the book for the first-timers who come in to get one.

Record stores, at least the ones that went away, only had one product. Records stores now sell records (Yes, I still call them records; shut up, I'm old), movies on DVD, videogames, interesting coffee-table books about said records and movies, t-shirts, and...whaddaya know...comic books.  Plus, they're in places that are accessible to the walk-by trade, and have attractive window displays, and sales, and in short, actively COURT customers.

And in honesty, this is all a moot point until the prices drop.

Paying the same price for a physical object you can hold, put on a shelf and use to keep your beer from making a ring on the coffee table, and for a digital copy, one that can barely be said to exist at all save for your memory of being enraged at some plot point or another after reading it, is sheer lunacy.  It is a pure cash grab, eliminating both the cost of physically printing the book, and an entire level of the sales process. 

A $1.99 comic book is profitable; it must be, because DC already plans to drop the prices on their titles by that dollar six weeks after the street date.  So functionally, if you want your digital titles on the day of release, you're being penalized a dollar.  But even at that "discounted" price, DC is making FAR more on a digital title that a physical one. 

Under confidence, a local comic shop confirmed that they get a 56% discount on DC titles, which means that for a $2.99 DC book, they're paying $1.31.  As I assured him when he told me this, I have no problem with this.  The monthly books are their biggest seller, they have to pay for most of the rest of the stock and the monthly nut of the store, so a good profit margin is perfectly reasonable.
But it still means that Diamond is getting $1.31 per title. (Yes, other stores may have different discounts, but it's a solid, verified number and one we can use as a base of discussion.)  It is not unreasonable to assume that Diamond's profit margin on said books is near to this.  If we assume that Diamond's profit margin is HALF of that, or 28%, they're paying 94 cents a book to DC.  If it's 50% (not impossible), they're paying 66 cents a copy.

So this means that at somewhere between 94 and 66 cents a copy, a DC title is profitable, presuming a sufficient number of them are sold.

So let's look at the cost of printing the book.  Now, the further up the chain this goes, the less hard data we have on prices, so we're making reasonable guesses.  One comic book printing company online advertises a price of $9,730 for a 32-page comic book, slightly less than 50 cents a copy, on a print run of 20,000, the level commonly considered to be the line of demarcation for cancellation.  Now DC has does a LOT of printing, and many larger print runs than that, so it's not unreasonable to assume they're paying easily half that, possibly less.  So let's stay cautious and say it's 25 cents to print a DC title.  take that off the top, and we have anywhere from 41 to 69 cents a copy of a $2.99 comic book that DC is pulling in. That's enough, presuming the book sells well enough, to cover payments to the creators, editors, art staff, etc, and still make the company money.

I refuse to believe the 99-cent comic book isn't possible, especially if it sells well.  Because again, the best and safest way to make money is not to charge a lot of money to a small group of people, but to charge a small amount of money to a LOT of people.  This is made even easier when you don't actually have to make anything.  Once the cost of creating the book is done, expenses cease, save for the cost of creating and keeping current the website that you're selling the comics from, a relatively small amount, amoritzed over the time the site is in use.

What DC (and Marvel, I know) is trying to do right now is charge a lot of money to a lot of people, and that doesn't go over well.

Digital comics will not, in the long run, be profitable via a higher profit margin, but by the increased sales that a larger potential readership provides.  Make the books good, make them cheap, and make nigh-effortless to obtain.  1 and 3 are handled.

Get to 2.

There's another facet to digital comics, as they're being sold now, that I still have a problem with, that of portability.  They've made strides - I can read digital comics from Comixology from my phone, PC, iDevice, and even my PSP.  That's good, but it's not 100% good. They're still tied to the internet, and cannot (to the best my knowledge) be backed up to a cd or other media and archived, nor can they be read from such media.  Bit-torrent files are perfectly portable - they can be tossed onto a CD and saved, and there's nary a device that doesn't have a CBR reader for it.  That's not an argument for torrenting, it's to show the target that digital comics must strive for. An iDevice has a limited storage space, they don't have SD cards or other hot-swappable media - if I want to swap out books, it's a time-consuming process, and, I hasten to add, there's no way for me to read the files on anything but the iDevice. I can't take the files and view them through iTunes or any other local reader. 

Marvel's original digital offering, only a few short years ago, now seems almost archaic.  They offered the ability to read copies of their book, on their website, for a monthly fee.  You didn't own the books, you didn't even have a guarantee they'd be there tomorrow, as it was supposed to be a rotating library.  Shortly afterwards, companies were offering entire runs  of titles on DVD for not unreasonable prices.  But they were PDFs, which didn't scale well, and the interface took up valuable screen space.  So that dropped away, sadly.

A proprietary data format runs the risk of becoming unusable.  As long as there are digital devices, there will be MP3 players.  I want, nay I require, the ability to download my purchases and use them as I see fit, with the reasonable exception of making copies and distributing them.  Show me that, and drop the price to that magic number of purchase without throught that has made so many ridiculous apps so ridiculously popular, and I can't imagine things not improving.

We're in a much better place than we were.  A year ago the argument was "Will pirating comics kill comic stores?" They didn't.  Now wer're worrying that similar files, now available legally, will do the same.  They won't.  There's a dedicated core that want books they can hold, bag, board and box in the basement. 

They're just not a large enough number to keep the industry alive. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On the scariness of the phrase "giving them a rest"

In case you haven't heard, DC is revamping its entire line of books.  The entire DC lineup is starting over with new Numbers One, with many books going away, and others taking their place.  And like everything else in the comics industry, up to and including the ratio of cadmium yellow used to make orange in the baxter-paper titles, it has been the cause of much consternation, a word which here means "yelling and screaming on the basis of no evidence whatsoever".

Many of the arguments being made are perfectly reasonable.  The frooferau over Barbara Gordon returning to the role of Batgirl has been a heated one.  But hot on its heels is the seeming apparation of the Justice Society of America.  There is no new JSA title in The New 52, and Dan Didio has gone on record that they plan to "give the characters a rest".

Power Girl has also vanished along with the JSA.  While a popular character for many reasons (OK, yes, for two in particular) she seems to have also been pushed to the side for the nonce. But people are taking too far a leap, assuming that "don't appear in a book" equals "No longer exist in the new DC continuity".  The one statement that has sent the largest number of panties into a twist is Grant Morrison's statement which describes Superman as "Earth's first superhero".  People are taking this to mean that there were no costumed characters before this, and since in this new continuity, the heroes only appeared less than 10 years ago (so it's been inferred, anyway), this means there were no heroes to form the JSA.

I think Grant Morrison's statement has been largely taken out of context.  Grant has long said that Superman should be the sun source for all superheroes in the DCU.  It was a central theme of Final Crisis - The extra dimensional beings that we perceive as the Monitors peered into our world, and saw Superman, not as a physical being, but a perfect image of heroism, what Plato described as the "Form" of the Hero.  At the climax of the tale, Superman is the last living creature, and re-builds the universe from memory, so that literally as well as figuratively, "It all started with Superman".

And here's the thing. HE'S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

Yes, there were characters in costumes fighting crime before him.  Zorro first appeared in 1919, for example.  But Superman was a paradigm-shifter, he was a game-changer before the term had been invented, let alone used to death.  Comics were a curiosity, an experiment before two Jews from Cleveland created him.  When he was published, you could actually hear that sound effect of the Enterprise going into warp drive coming from the comic publishing houses of New York.  It was the sound of an industry kicking into gear.

So yes, literally, It All Started With Superman.  And the character should remain at that point in comics.  He is the best of us, he is the best we can be.  And that is, I think, what grant is trying to say.

Now, how does that allow the existence of heroes before him?

Rather easily, really.  The important word in Grant's quote is Superhero.  Like he did in the real world, Superman's appearance raised the bar, changed the definition of the idea, indeed CREATED the word.  I see no reason to think that there couldn't have been heroes, Mystery Men, Caped Crimefigters, what have you, in the past, even before the JSA.  When Superman comes along, he just jumps it all up to another level.

Look at Grant Morrison's greatest work, Watchmen(*)  There were heroes before Dr. Manhattan appeared, but when he did, the whole definition changed.  And if you read the book carefully, you realize that the original Mystery Men of the 40s were inspired to get into costumes by the adventures of a guy in tights in a new comic book.  So even here, It All Started With Superman.

Besides, Mr. Terrific is getting a new book, so not all the members of the JSA are gone.  He's a legacy character, taking the name of the mystery man from the JSA era, so this at least suggests that said character could still have existed, which in turn opens the door for the rest.

But there's an elephant in the room when it comes to the JSA, one that even its fans find hard to wave away.  The timeframe of modern comics keep moving forward - the "Sliding Seven" to which I've discussed in the past.  But the adventured of the JSA cannot be updated - they are tied firmly and inexorably to World War II and cannot move.  So while the start of Superman's career is anywhere from seven to ten years ago from this moment, The JSA's heyday was going on seventy years ago.  That's as many as seven tens! The farther back it gets, the more tenuous an explanation that they were kept young and vital by magical feedback from one of their last battles becomes.  So while there's no reason that the JSA couldn't have existed in the 40s, the idea that 90% of its members are alive, healthy and actively fighting crime today becomes a stretch, even in a world where Martians fight crime and eat Oreo-analogues.

Geoff Johns tried to set them up as a training ground of new heroes, a repository of experience and history. It was a GREAT idea.  Use the organization (and the book) as a way to bring new heroes into the fold, make sure they get the right start and the right training.  In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, batman is one of those heroes trained by the JSA. Wildcat taught him to fight, and the others taught him strategy, etc.  It's a great idea.  It just never caught on.  The fans wanted to read about the old (and all that that implies) members of the team, and not these "young boys", to use a pro wrestling term.  So the old guard kept on fighting, and the new folks got used less and less, and ultimately, things remained largely the same.

Many have pointed to a panel in the first issue of the most recent Justice League run which was supposed to show various moments of past and future history of the team. One of them was a new version of the discovery of Earth-Two.  Many have pointed to Geoff Johns' ability to play the long game, and suggest that that may be a look at the NEW continuity, in which the JSA's adventures occurred on a parallel Earth.  That's all well and good for preserving the stories, but it doesn't eliminate the whole seventy years of time issue.

My hopes on the JSA are fairly optimistic. I am wholly confident of their place in history.  It's entirely possible that in Today's New DCU they still exist in the capacity in which Geoff tried to create.  We may not see them all the time.  Like The Challengers of the Unknown, they are the Grand Old Men of the hero industry, called in as advisors when events occur way above the experience and pay grade of the heroes of today.  We shall see.

(*) Calm down.  This is a callback to one of the greatest internet running gags in existence, which started on the message boards on Newsarama.  Some guy posted a message asking "Will Grant Morrison ever write anything better than his masterpiece ,'Watchmen'?"  The regulars immediately broke into two camps, either thinking this was the most illiterate boob ever to set fingers to keyboard, or realizing they were in the presence of prank-greatness.  Myriad posts appeared correcting the fellow's "error", and he calmly replied that THEY had it wrong, that they were confusing Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, which is easy, since they're both British.  It was brilliant.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Flashpoint salvo two, and a look at more of the DC Refresh, but ultimately about Batgirl

We're a couple weeks into the Flashpoint event now, and one could make one of two arguments - that the announcement of the DC Refresh has either (both?) made the events of Flashpoint even more important, or completely overshadowed them.  Like so many comics-related announcements, news that a big thing is coming several months hence, like a new creative team or a whole new direction, turns the current run of the book into a lame duck sessions; a dead book walking, even more so than it may have been before said announcement.

The Flashpoint books are still coming out, and already people are looking past them.  That's a shame, because while it doesn't look like any of them will remain around after the event's end (OK, one; more on that later), they're good books in their own right, and worth a read.

Emperor Aquaman and his story is key to the altered world of Flashpoint, and it's here we see it in detail.  Interestingly, Prince Brion of Markovia (Geo-Force) plays a major part, both in flashback and in future plans.  Tony Bedard plays the book as a political thriller, rife with intrigue and backroom dealings, one of the things that made his R.E.B.E.L.S. run so interestingly.  Politics is a slippery world and only those with deft feet can avoid slipping.

Citizen Cold is by far the most interesting of this week's books, mainly because it's the one that stays closest to the character's original version.  Captain Cold is the hero of Central City, taking the place of The Flash, who has never existed in this Eobardian timeline.  But it's all a con - Len Snart is still a petty thief, but instead of turning to crime after obtaining his cold gun, came to the realization that you can get a lot more out of people if they like you.  He takes villains out with extreme prejudice (The dream-battle between him and Mister Freeze is hilariously short), blatantly courts TV journalist Iris West and happily takes all that Central City offers him.  When his sister Lisa (AKA The Golden Glider) kills their abusive father, his calm (cool?) demeanor cracks, but just for a moment.

Geoff Johns and his compatriots have done a real job of making the Flash villains more than gimmicks in costume, many with Scott Kolins at his side.  Kolins has done a number of very solid Flash-related tales on his own, many with Cold at their core, and this is no exception. 

Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager is an odd duck in an already very unfamiliar pond.  In this world, Slade Wilson is a pirate, with a crew both human and meta, taking advantage of the chaotic world to fill their pockets, and to search for his daughter Rose, stolen by parties unknown.  We get a good look at what he and his crew were up to before their short appearance (and seeming demise, but I doubt that) in FP#2 Jimmy Palmiotti plays with the idea well, writing the dialogue in just enough of the kind of stilted pomposity you use to hear in old pirate movies to make it interesting.  How important it'll be to the central plot of the event is questionable, but it's fun so far.

Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown is the latest attempt to use the Frankenstein (re)created by Grant Morrison, combined with an alternate-timeline version of the Creature Commandos.  Jeff Lemire does a solid job of providing an origin of the new-world characters, starting in WWII and leading right up to the present.  It appears to tie into the yet-to-come Project Superman, as it appears they are awakened by the chaos after Superman escapes his test lab.  It's a really entertaining book - apparently they sensed it would be, as Frankenstein is finally getting his own book post September.

And speaking of Post-September...

We now know that something at the climax of Flashpoint (details withheld because they want you to BUY the damn books) will result in the DCU returning not its current normal state, but a slightly altered one, where some histories are the same, some are amended.  All 52 of the new books have been revealed, and while the exact details of their histories and respective continuities are not known, a few statements made along the way allow us to make some general assumptions:

They keep using the term "younger".  That, combined with statements that we're looking characters from a few years back in their histories, before they had as much experience, makes it fairly clear that we're looking at at the very least a rollback of the DC continuity, if not an actual reboot.  But there are odd choices being made as to how those rollbacks are happening, and they're most easily seen in the Batman titles. 

Even though we're looking at a "younger" Batman, he's apparently still had time to go through three Robins.  Tim Drake is still Red Robin (appearing in Teen Titans, and BOY will I have more to say about that later), Damian will be appearing with his father, Bruce, for the first time, really.  Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. will be continuing, so clearly those events are still in the canon.

Dick Grayson, however is back as Nightwing, stepping back from the Batman-mantle he took on recently.  Many people are seeing that as a demotion; once he became Batman, they argue, it would be an insult to return to a lesser role.  On this I disagree, as I never saw his move to Batman as permanent.  Especially when Bruce came back, I saw the idea of two people as Batman, trying to give the implication they were the same character, would not last.  If I may draw a comparison to Captain America, very few people thought Steve Rogers wouldn't come back, and that when he did, that he wouldn't return to the role of Cap.  That Bucky did such a good job that people wanted him to remain as Cap (and similarly, how Dick did as Batman) is a testament to the characters, and the way they were written, but ultimately, they were ever supposed to be transitional and temporary roles.  Dick never had time to really become Batman; he's had a very long time to become Nightwing, and that's the character he feels more "right" being.

Now Barbara Gordon going back to being Batgirl, that's another thing entirely. 

The reaction to Babs becoming batgirl again has been met with an astounding amount of emotion on both sides. 

Jill Pantozzi, The Nerdy Bird, has been one of the most vociferous, with both a heartfelt article and an equally emotional interview with the book's writer, the redoubtable Gail Simone. I wrote about my own feelings about such a change some time back, and while my timing was off, the point holds - Oracle is an astounding character, made into spectacular by a series of deft hands at the wheel, not the least of which the aforementioned Ms. Simone.  So indeed, could she "go back" to the old position, after becoming so great a character in her own right?

In short, yes.  In her interview with Jill, Gail made a couple of points that make perfect sense:

The lady in the wheelchair was becoming a crutch - Oracle was supplying data to the Bat-family, the Birds of Prey, and pretty much any hero in the DCU who could get her phone number.  She was a dramatic magic wand as potentially annoying as The Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, in the wrong hands.  Gail said it herself - She made it so Batman didn't have to do any detective work, he'd just call her. 
In limited amounts, such a source is useful; used constantly it makes fighting crime a bit too easy.  Oracle, as written by Gail in BoP worked perfectly; a small team fighting crime, with the help of a big sister.  But as used in other books, she was Google. 
Part of the reason they have to keep nerfing heroes is, as many have said, they become invulnerable.  It's common belief that Batman, at this point in his career, can beat anyone with sufficient Prep Time.  Superman can punch Saturn out of orbit; makes it hard to believe Live Wire is a threat.  And with one phone call, just about any hero in the DCU could get plans to a villains lair, full specs on the baddie's powers, and instant access to reinforcements.  If the DCU were the DCU video games, Oracle would be the strategy guide that listed all the secrets.

They were gonna do it anyway - The decision was made - Batgirl was going to be Barbara Gordon again.  Gail had a choice of lighting a candle or cursing the darkness. She realized she wanted to write Batgirl - who wouldn't? - but couldn't find a way to do it without effectively un-doing so much character development over several decades.  The Refresh separated the baby from the bathwater. It became possible to eat from the Batgirl-cake while keeping the Oracle cake.  Everybody wins.

To these points, I add two of my own:

Most people "know" Barbara Gordon is Batgirl - Yes, it's the same reason they got rid of the "Matrix" version of Supergirl, including the wonderful work Peter David was doing with her.  It made far more sense to try and attract new readers with the version of the character they "know", even if that version hasn't been around for almost 25 years.  And considering how well the character was received (even if it took several years to get her right, thanks to Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle), it looks like it was the right move.  As many people were enjoying all the other versions, there seems to have been a strong sense of "Oh thank God, the real one is back".

So no matter how good the adventures of Cassandra Cain were, and that Steph Brown's currently are, the general public hears "Batgirl" and thinks Yvonne Craig.  And really, who wouldn't?

IT'S GAIL FUCKING SIMONE - Personally, and I say this to you clearly and distinctly with no hyperbole whatsoever, I cannot think of another writer in comics today who if they were handed this book, I would have any faith in it whatsoever.  Gail has taken Barbara Gordon...not Batgirl, not Oracle, but Babs herself...and turned her into a character so strong and unique that I can't think of another writer's hands I'd trust her in.  When Gail left BoP, my interest in the book ceased - I hung around purely to see how bad it was gonna get.  And as good as the folks on the book were, it was slopping over with WhaTheHell. Oracle: The Cure was Shakespearean, in the sense that is full of sound and fury, and signified nothing.  Gail returning to BoP a year ago was like Hogan returning to the WWE - things were back to As They Should Be.  So knowing that Babs will be in the hands of the one person DC I trust to do it right...well, the books could be called Babs Eats Soup and I'd know it was going to be good.

So all told, they are doing something not everyone agrees with, but they are doing it for fair reasons, and with the best people available.  But the question is...what exactly are the they doing?  The answer to that is, "they're not going to tell us...what are you, stupid?".  They have books to sell, and just telling us what's going to be in them will make more people say "oh, thanks, now I don't have to buy it" than "Wow, I have to read that, as I am sure the detailed narrative in the book will be much better than the two sentence summary you gave me",

But again, based on what we've heard, we can make some deductions.  Let's take Gail's words and use them against her...
We haven't said she was never Oracle. We haven't said there won't be an Oracle. We haven't said what age she'd be. We haven't said if “The Killing Joke” remains canon or not.
Let's look at them out of order.  She (and most of the DC folks) has said we'll bee looking at these heroes from "several" years back, before they got really REALLY good at their jobs. So that certainly implies they'll be younger.  Saying "We haven't said she was never Oracle" is the same as saying "We haven't said she was ever Oracle" so that doesn't help us. 

 I could never really get behind, taking the Babs that's been running the Bat-verse, toppling countries, helping herd the JLA, all those things...I could never see, even with the very heartfelt and passionate words of many people with disabilities who asked for it, putting that Babs back in the cape and cowl. I don't think I could ever have done that.
 Which implies simply that's this is not what she's doing.

Perhaps we're looking at a compression of  time.  Consider the rule of the Sliding (X) Years, the idea that the entirety of the events of the DCU, starting with either the first appearance of Superman or the Flash (debatable) happened X years ago from TODAY, not at a fixed point in the past that gets further and further away.  Right now, Grant Morrison presumes that period to be about 15-20 years.  If you look at the period of time since the actual start of the Silver Age (just about 50 years), Crisis comes right in the middle - it's fair to assume the same is true for that sliding period in the DCU timeline.  So that means Babs has been a wheelchair for about seven to ten years, and has been oracle for a year or so less than that, DCU-time.  That's a LOT of time.  Puts the heroes in their late thirties, maybe even early forties, depending when they started.

The current Best Guess is that with the clock rolling back, there simply won't be enough time for all the stories that we've read over the last decades to "have happened".  So like the junk drawer in the kitchen, stuff will be removed and either tossed, or a place found for them, until the drawer can be closed again, with room to put more stuff in.  Let's say they're planning to made that sliding time period closer to seven to ten years.  With Crisis still n the middle, we're only looking at Babs being Oracle for three to four years; perhaps much less.  That's less time for her to get used to (and really good at) being Oracle, and allows her to have been Batgirl for longer than she was Oracle.  And that's a somewhat reasonable time period for a person to have had massive spinal trauma to recover some sensation and mobility to a degree.  In a super-science world of the DCU, it's more than enough time for them to fully cure her, well BEFORE she becomes an institution.

In that new paradigm, with less adventures on the books, might it be more acceptable for THAT Babs Gordon to return to the tights?  Bearing fully in mind that DC will not be coming to your house and taking back all the comics in the longboxes?  I think at least it might soften the blow.
I know people are worried about Cass and Steph. All I can say is, I cannot imagine that those characters won't have a role in the new DC.
 Again, this implies that the characters will still exist in the DCnU, but does not say they were ever Batgirl.  While it's odd that Batman will still have time to have three Robins, is it more of less unbelievable that there were two other Bats-girl?  So again, there might be a Cassandra Cain and Steph Brown, they may never have been Batgirl; that doesn't mean they can't be great characters, perhaps in some other costume or form.

Here's the deal - we don't have a clue what any of the new books will be.  Some will assume the worst, some will remain cautiously optimistic, and some will make comparisons to sliced bread that will make others want to buy them a thesaurus.  I'll keep going over the rest of the new titles in the coming days, but all told, it looks like I'll be buying some books, and not others. In short, much like today.

The big question, the one upon which all this is hanging, is whether or not more, a LOT more new people will be reading them.  Far FAR more than the ones that will stomp away in a huff at the threat of change, swearing they Quit Comics Forever.  That is a question that not even Oracle can answer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Flashpoint Salvo One and the first peeks at the "DC Refresh"

Flashpoint was at first seen as just another summer event, a little different in that it didn't tie into any regular titles save for Booster Gold.  It was at its base a chance to do a mess of Elseworlds stories, and some very promising ones at that.  But the question everyone asked (at least the ones who didn't assume the answer was "not at all") was how much, if any, would this event affect the DCU moving forward.
Well, now we know, don't we?

Now that we know damn well the books will have a solid impact on the future of the DCU, it's likely worth giving them a more detailed look.

Flashpoint #2 it the central book of the event and is where the Flash / Barry Allen would be having his adventure to try and fix this mishegas.  At least up until the end of this issue, that is...

Seriously tho, I'm sure this is a classic Republic Serial cliffhanger, and first thing next issue he'll sit up gasping or screaming bloody murder.  Remember, if he isn't the Flash, the Speed Force never gets generated, and Thawne can't tap into it, and we're in a Grandfather paradox.

We get a look at a couple more of the new characters of this new world - the pirate Deathstroke will be getting his own mini starting in a week or two, and the war between Atlantis and Themyscira will be see in Aquaman and Wonder Woman's own minis.  Lois Lane isn't seen, just discussed, and of course, The (surprising) Batman, who still seems to remain at the center of things, no matter who he ends up being.  The idea that he'd go to all these lengths to let his son take his place is a sign as to how single-minded the Wayne men are.

My main issue with the book is more a worry than a problem.  There's SO much new stuff to introduce, so many new characters and ideas, that I'm afraid there won't be enough time for any of them to DO anything.  We're two issues down out of five, and the only characters whose stories have moved appreciably forward are barry and Batman.  The heroes (and tweens) of the world decided to do something...and that's it.  We see Slade and Steve Trevor get into trouble, and that's about it.  If they don't get to more action in the next issue, numbers 4 and 5 are gonna be crammed to confusion.

Abin Sur the Green Lantern - My favorite of the tie-in books so far, it hinges on the idea that Abin Sur didn't die on his trip to Earth many years ago, and is still the GL of the sector.  With Earth no longer the bastion of heroism it was, the war againt the Black Lanterns is going badly, and with no Hal Jordan to challenge him, Sinestro is still a Green Lantern, and Abin Sur's best friend.

Perhaps part of the reason I'm enjoying this book is that since there's less new concepts to introduce (just nods to the differences), they get right into the story.  It's interesting that even in a new timeline, the Guardians are conniving bastards who lie like little blue persian rugs.

Abin Sur and Sinestro have been redesigned to hew to their portrayal in the upcoming film, and that's fine. Sinestro is using any means necessary to find out what's going on, and they're both ignoring the Guardians, something that goes usually end well.

Batman: Knight of Vengeance is another book that has a direction in mind, and gets going fast.  Like the GL title, it's based on one change - Bruce Wayne died in Crime Alley with his mother, and Thomas lived.  The way he chose to enact his wrath on crime is markedly different than the way his son went, taking a wholesale tack rather than one man.  Note that in this world, Oswald Cobblepot is working with him (how happily, I imagine we'll learn soon).  He's not afraid to kill, and isn't nearly as "code-approved" as his son was.  Like the GL book, I see his Joker looks much more like the recent Ledgerian film version. 

It seems more unconnected to the main FP story, more interested in telling its own story about its own Batman.  We got one reference to the events of FP#2 where he asks Jim Gordon if he'd change the world for the better if he could.  Perhaps with Barry's help, he'll be able to.

World of Flashpoint is serving the purpose of explaining more of the bits of the new world that aren't covered in the main title.  We got a bit more of a backstory to the history of the world - the JSA existed, but had no Flash, so they didn't succeed in their fight against crime.  Check out those members of H.I.V.E. - the young chubby-cheeked Ras Ahl Ghul?  Looks like Damian's original purpose was achieved.

Traci 13 remembers the time before Thawne started dicking with things, and is a far more powerful magician than she was before.  That, combined with the countdown started at the end of the book gives me the impression that with a bunch of books they swear you don't HAVE to read to get the whole story of the event, this book may be the one of which that is the lest true.

Secret Seven was my least favorite of the titles, mainly because I never got into the previous Shade series, tho more from my own tastes at the time than any flaw in the book.  The George Perez art here is wonderful as always, and the story is perfectly good.  It seems to have the least to do with the main story so far.  It's the odd duck of the set so far. Here more to give Milligan a chance to write Shade again, which is not a bad thing.

DC is swearing blind that the wholesale renumbering of the DC Universe in September is NOT a "reboot".  They're not starting everything from scratch, but they are giving the JLA a new origin, giving a bunch of characters new costumes, and making them all "younger", which implies that some of their adventures may not have happened, or at least not yet.  So, we're really talking semantics.

Twitter person Grant Giandonato has come up with the perfect term - "The DC Refresh" - when Flashpoint ends, DC isn't rebooting, they're hitting the F5 key and clearing the cache.

The first ten new issues after Justice League hve been officially announced, as opposed to the ones that have been rumored and supposed. They're an interesting set of choices so far:

Wonder Woman went through a year-long alternate reality already and a rather talked about costume change, so it's no surprise at all that she gets a new outlook...but another new costume?  That's a surprise, considering all the stumping they did for the last one.  Brian Azzarello is a very good writer, and I think we'll see Diana take an more dramatic turn. Cliff Chiang popped onto the scene with that brilliantly beny Doctor Thirteen mini series, and his clean line art style quickly became a fave of mine.  Looks promising.

The Aquaman book is not a surprise at all, since it was announced several months back.  The new post-FP world opens a number of questions, however.  How much of his tragic past (and various incarnations) have happened? 

It's not a terrible surprise to see The Flash in his own book again - Johns went to great lengths to bring him back, I didn't expect it'd just be for 12 issues.  With Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato sharing the art and writing duties, it could be interesting indeed.  They've both got lots of experience with the character, and likely lots of story seeds from past collaborators.
We've seen a number of artists get writing gigs, only to fall behind quickly.  I'm hoping we don't have this problem in the post-FP DCU. 

The rumored and unconfirmed loss of Gail Simone on Birds of Prey has raised much speculational ire online, but the news that she'll be taking over Fury of Firestorm has calmed many seething hearts.  At the end of Brightest Day, the dangling thread was that Ronnie and Jason were stuck as Firestorm, and that they were going to detonate in ninety days DCU time.  That sounds a tad too thematically similar to the One Year Later plot twist for Firestorm where Jason was merged with Lorraine Reilly (Firehawk) and if they were separated by more than a mile, there were dangerous complications.  I'm hoping that part of the plotline is either ignored, or sorted out quickly.

The new look of the character, or should I say characters, is promising.  I'm a big fan of the Japanese TV shows like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai shows that get turned into Power Rangers.  Last year's KR show was called Kamen Rider W, which brought a unique spin to the formula in that it was two people who merged to form the hero.  This had been done before in Ultraman Ace, but this also added the multiple forms concept that had become popular with the shows.  So Kamen Rider would look different and have different powers, depending which of the pair was the active member of the transformation. 

So imagine my surprise when I saw this art which seems to mirror that concept.  There seem to be Jason-Active and Ronnie-Active forms, and a more powerful "super-form" as well.  Could be interesting.

Considering that James Robinson was originally attached to the Hawkman title as of last year, I gotta tell you, Tony Daniel is a step down.  Philip Tan on art will be welcome, for sure.  The rundown of the character seems rather different than the current version - hard to tell if they've chosen to pull back on the history of the character, or just choosing to fill that in later.  I'll certainly give it a go.

I gotta tell you, I did not expect to see Green Arrow make the cut.  His current title has been a mad Goop Melange of ideas thrown at the proverbial wall - he got married, his son got attacked by a death cloud lost his memory and genetically merged with Plastic Man, he killed a villain, got forgiven, got divorced, and the last year has been naught but an extended tie-in book to Brightest Day.  JT Krul has done well with the cards he was dealt, don't get me wrong, so I'm perfectly willing to see what he'll do moving forward.  And art by Dan jurgens is always a delight.

But more then any character right now, Green Arrow needs a cleanup.  WAY to many thing tried in way too short a time - dump almost all of it, roll him back to the just after Longbow Hunters era, even back as far as the 70's JLA, and I don't think you'd get too many complaints at all.

The Justice League International title is just slopping over with potential for me.  The JLI:GL mini-series did a fabulous job of turning the team into serious players, or more correctly, reminding people that they were serious players all along.  People only remember them as a BWAH-HAH-HAH gang of loony losers, something that was even addressed in the series; that's even how other heroes remember them.  But now they're a team to be reckoned with, and with Dan Jurgens at the helm, I'm quite chuffed.

Booster's got a new costume, and is dead-center on the cover.   Might he be taking the leadership role?  I'll be curious to see if his solo title continues.  If you look at it from issue one, it seems rather clear that one of its purposes was to set up the time tampering plotline.  I'm expecting to find out that all the plans he foiled in the early days of the book were the work of the Reverse Flash all along.  Booster's a major player in Flashpoint; his title is the only regular book crossing into it.  There's a fair chance that once FP ends, so will his title, and this will be his primary home.

Dan's verified that the woman in the lower left is a new character, but when I pressed and asked "NEW new, or new-version-of-current-character new?", he hemmed and hawed a bit.  A lot of folks, myself included, thought it looked a lot like Donna Troy.

There's another very interesting change here.  Look at that lineup, and think back to the JLI:GL series.  Who's missing?  Where's Blue Beetle?  It possible he'll be appearing in Teen Titans, but considering the exposure he got on the Brave and the Bold TV series, not to mention recently on Smallville, I think one of the 52 new titles will be another try for Jaime Reyes.  Just getting it on record.

Mister Terrific is a stellar character, and could easily carry a solo book.Indeed, the lion's share of the stories from JSA Confidential were about him, so it's clear he's a character people have stories for.  He's got an interesting character quirk - he's an atheist in a world where God(s) clearly exist, and interact with Earth almost daily.  He's so dedicated to science he's patently unwilling to accept that there's some stuff right in front of him to which science just can't handle.  Lots of character potential there.

A lot of folks are worried that in this new, younger DCU, there may be no room for the JSA.  This may be a moot point since there's already been solid rumors about another JSA book, one decidedly not including the work of Marc Guggenheim.  And that's just FINE by me.  The whole Monument Point arc had great promise, as it was originally described, but it became this morose beatdown of the characters, leaving Alan Scott stuck in a costume resembling a Franklin Stove, and the aforementioned Mister Terrific rapidly losing his intelligence like Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor II.  Obviously THAT'S going to get sorted (good - I can't stand People Getting Stupid stories, save the "Goof Gas" arc on Rocky and Bullwinkle and the story Flowers for Algernon) but all the promise of Monument point has yet to arrive.  I wouldn't mind if it was followed up on, as it sounded good.

I have been saying for a LONG time that Captain Atom could be a great character.  But...well...oh just go read this.Green Arrow needs rolling back a few years, but Captain Atom could easily be started over from scratch in the brave new DCU, with nary a whimper.  Even better, put him on Earth-4 along with the Charlton Action heroes, and let him be the strongest character on the planet.  There's no place for a second strongest person on the planet - Superman is it, period, or at least he should be.  But in his own little fiefdom, with only a small number of characters to share the field with, Atom could be a big winner.

The assorted Confidential titles were a good idea, but limited - you can only think up so many other Batman or Superman stories to tell. But there's so many OTHER heroes in the DCU you can tell a story about that never get a chance to shine.  DC Universe Presents is the book that will offer that forum.  Try characters out in a regular title, see how they do.  It's how oh so many heroes got their start back in the day.  I wouldn't mind seeing Showcase come back either - I still think a book with two or three short stories of various character could do well.  Stagger the stories so they don't all end at the same time, give the readers a reason to buy each issue.  As the story they're enjoying is ending, they've already had a couple chapters of another story to enjoy and get interested in, as opposed to starting fresh the next issue. 

As I was writing this, the next wave of new #1 issues were announced, from the Green Lantern corner of the DCU.  Not a lot has changed here creatively, and that's a good thing - Johns, Tomasi and Bedard have a book each.  Bedard's book, New Guardians is the one we know nothing about, but it puts Kyle Rayner in the star role, which was something missing recently.  Add to that the already-announced Red Lanterns title by Peter Milligan and you've got a nice and varied set of books. 

Of all the stuff at DC right now, the GL titles are the ones for which the most is going well, so odds are we'll not see too many big changes to the history.  Just about everything else is up for grabs.

All told, I see promise and potential in every title so far, and a couple hold great promise for me.  Save for the rumored change to BoP and the loss of James Robinson on Hawkman, I've not seen a serious misstep yet.  So, let's give them a chance and see if they can deliver something new and exciting, as opposed to just different.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the need to destroy to build anew


It was theorized, it was whispered, but nobody seriously thought they'd do, but they have.

DC announced today that come September they were re-launching the entire DC UniverseFifty-Two new #1 issues.  New origins, new costumes, new stories.  So far the only book announced officially is a new Justice League title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, a book that has been a poorly-kept secret for at least two years.  Other titles being bandied about include a reboot of Birds of Prey NOT under the control of everyone's favorite woman in serious need of help, Gail Simone, a Hawkman title by James Robinson and Philip Tan, and a Fabian Nicieza-helmed Teen Titans.  All good news.

Fifty-two titles is about the same number of mainstream DC books they're publishing now, not counting the Vertigo and DC Kids titles. But they're already saying that quite a few titles won't be returning, and are promising a "wider range" of titles.  Heaven only knows what that'll mean.

Naturally, many questions come to the fore, such as:

WHAT STAYS AND WHAT GOES? We don't yet know how much of DC Continuity is being rewritten here.  They've said the JLA is getting a new origin, and the implication is that other bits will change as well.  While they're shying away from using the word "reboot", they've said things will be "at a point where our characters are younger".  So, does that mean a younger Superman, before he married Lois?  A Batman earlier in his career, where Dick Grayson is still Robin?  Where Wally West is Kid Flash, and Bart Allen does not exist?  At this point we don't know.

To a degree, DC seems to be taking a  page from Marvel's book when they did this to Spider-Man a couple years back.  After the much-maligned One More Day arc (If you don't know, do NOT ask), Spider-Man was no longer married, and several years younger; closer in age to the readers.

It's not a bad idea.  It used to be known as the "Sliding seven years" - the concept that all of modern comics history took place in the last seven or so years, in the same way that all ten seasons of M*A*S*H took place within only a three-year police action.  But with 50 years of adventures since the launch of the Silver Age, that's generally considered to be more like 12-15 years now.  That puts the big guys like Superman and Batman in their mid-thirties, easy, maybe pushing forty.  Winding them back a few years makes them a bit more easy to identify with.

But will readers accept seeing their biological clocks wound back, and potentially any number of stories wiped off the canon?  Well, now that the grousing is over, Spider-Man is doing very well (Dan Slott is bringing an unbridled glee to the book; it's more fun to read than it's been since well before JMS took it over) and though people swore it'd be a colossal disaster, Superman's reboot by John Byrne was a total success, as was Geoff John's more recent soft-reboot.  So it's certainly get past performance on its side.

More than the events of years past, the question of what more recent events will "count" are on my mind.  We're reading War of the Green Lanterns right now, and just finished reading Blackest Night, the end of a since massive story arc that started in issue on of Green Lantern Rebirth. Considering the GL titles are a sales juggernaut right now, it seems likely that they won't change much.  But Justice League Generation lost ended with the promise of a new JL:I title.  Is that still on the books, and will it still be based off the events of the maxi-series?  After investing a year (and longer for the GL titles), it might rankle some for the new DC paradigm to ignore those stories, partly or in toto.  Many readers were annoyed that several of the alleged Final Crisis prequel titled like Death of the New Gods ended up being stand-alone stories that were completely ignored and even directly contradicted by the following event.  It wouldn't do to have that happen again.

WHO WILL LIVE, WHO WILL PERISH? While books are going away and new one are replacing them, might the same be true of characters?  There's already rumblings that Adventure Comics will no longer star the Legion of Super-Heroes, but other characters who had graced its pages in the past. 

One of the biggest complaints about the past few (ok, more than a few) years at DC ar the massive number of deaths that served only to waste good characters in exchange of a brief hotshot and some cheap heat.  With time itself being up in the air in FLASHPOINT, who's to say that a few of those deaths couldn't be...fixed?  Everybody's got someone they'd like to save, and if you have read my stuff in the past, you likely know whose mine are: Ted Kord, and Ralph and Sue Dibny.  Their stories were well told, they were moving, and ironically, they all got more use and respect after they died than they did for years beforehand.  That doesn't reduce at all my desire to see them alive, hale and hearty again. 

I also have a few things I'd like to see done, as long as everything seems in flux...

CAPTAIN MARVEL: Rather a drop-kick here.  They've been teasing a return of the Big Red Cheese as more and more of the brain-softening fiasco that was Trials of SHAZAM got stripped away and tossed in the bin. This would be a perfect chance to bring him back to the DCU proper.  The SHAZAM book by Art Baltazar, Franco and Mike Norton was stellar, but suffered from the fact that by running under the DC Kids line, it was deemed "Not a real DC title" by the comics-reading intelligentsia.  Well I've gone on record before that the DC Kids titles have been putting out entertainment on par with the "real" DC books ever since Jann Jones took the line by the horns and made something of it. 
As neat an idea as the S!H!A!Z!A!M! kids seem in Flashpoint, that is absolutely NOT the Cap I want to read long-term. 

USE ALL 52 EARTHS:  One of the real problems in the DCU is when Superman is the top dog, the drop to number two is precipitous. As powerful as, say, Captain Atom is, when he's trying to fight an alien invasion or natural disaster, in the back of your mind you're still thinking "Why doesn't Superman just come help him?"
But put him on his own Earth, make him the biggest fish in the pond, and you can make him a real star.
DC has already brought back the Multiverse, albeit an abbreviated version, with 52 Earths.  Put the ACTUAL Charlton heroes on Earth-4, not a Watchmen-ish version of them.  Likewise Captain Marvel - he works best when he's off on his own,  with or without the other Fawcett heroes
Oh, and get rid of that teen Ibis with the inexplicable costume while you're at it. He shames us both.

HOW ABOUT SOME OF THAT "POSITIVE" FEELING? After each event since Infinite Crisis, we were promised a return to a more optimistic tone for the DCU, a less rapey-murdery time where people survived adventures with just some scrapes and scars.  And we never seemed to get it.  This may be the time.  I don't want to see a return to the simplistic and goofy sixties or anything, but it's possible to do a story that doesn't end with a body.

There's a bunch of books I'd like to see done as well.  Considering how well the DC Kids books are doing, I'm at a dead loss as to how a monthly Captain Carrot book isn't being done.  I'm hoping the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents survive the cut, and take a more active part in the the DCU, becoming its analogue to SHIELD, one that Checkmate was never able to be.

They promise a "Wider Range" of books.  Are they talking diversity of characters, or a wider range of topics?  I would love to see if a war title could hack it in today's market, or dare I dream, a comedy title like PLOP!

I'm on board for this. I want to see what they have planned, and see how many creative teams and titles interest me.  I'll lay odds I'll end up getting more DC titles than I am now, and that, friend, is saying something.