#41 – Poison Ivy

Pamela Isley was one of those Batman villains that you could always understand due to their psychological state. I’ve never actually seen Ivy as mentally insane in the same way that Mr. Freeze isn’t insane. Both of these characters do everything just because of a singular drive…Just like Batman himself.

Isley’s origin has changed a few different times over the years but most of the origins involve her being a botanist and due to one of her college professors experimenting on her she becomes Poison Ivy. She had already had a deep love for her plants but after her transformation it became an obsession for her.

My personal favorite Poison Ivy story in the comics is the No Man’s Land/Gotham Central storyline. After a massive earthquake nearly destroys all of Gotham, Ivy takes residence in a park and takes in a group of kids that have all been orphaned due to the earthquake. She watches over them and teaches them how to cultivate the land and grow food for the people of Gotham. Following a fight with Clayface and the city being restored, Batman decides to let the kids stay with Ivy. A few months later, one of them is killed and Ivy takes her revenge on the crooked cops who did it. Poison Ivy always works best as a fellow protector of Gotham in my opinion. She’s technically a villain but she’s much more of an anti-hero to me.

Which leads me to my final point and why she’s on this list. In Batman : Arkham Knight Ivy is one of the earlier villains you apprehend but she’s different due to her refusal to work with Scarecrow on his big plan to ruin Gotham. When scarecrow does release his toxin it’s Ivy who chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice. By merging with an ancient tree beneath Gotham she is able to disperse the toxin and return clean air to the city. The strain is too much for her though but she died a hero with the unforgettable last words : “Nature Always Wins.”

Poison Ivy will always be one of my favorites because no matter what she does she always has a heart for the outcasts and downtrodden. Which is why she’s relatable and why she’s on my top 50.

Comics 101: The Big Two

New to comics? Great! I have way too much information about the subject so I decided to do a series of articles on it. Last time, we discussed how comics are for everyone to enjoy and today we’ll be discussing the differences of the two primary comic companies: DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Most people are either a Marvel or a DC fan. I absolutely love both, they’ve both done amazing things for the industry as a whole and comics would not be where they are without them. Naturally I won’t be able to go over every detail of the two companies but I can at least get the basics down in this one and then build from there in future segments.  One of my first thoughts when starting this series was clearing up the who’s who of comic book characters and what company do they belong to. Why isn’t Batman a part of the Avengers? Why can’t Spider-Man join the Teen Titans? All of these questions and more will be answered soon enough.

In the mid 1930’s, comics weren’t anywhere near as big as they would become in the next five to ten years nor had anyone heard or thought of the concept of the superhero yet. Most of your comics were reprints of the comic strips you would find in the Sunday paper until a few smart businessmen, writers and artists started to publish their own material in the books. Now any comic fan or historian has their own choice of who did this first, was it Martin Goodman? Was it Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson or was it Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster’s Superman that was the first? In all honesty it’s anyone’s guess. That period of time had many other things to worry about such as the end of the great depression or the oncoming war in Europe that no one really focused on comics yet…but they soon would.

In 1937, Detective Comics premiered under National Publications. Now, this is an important title to remember for two reasons:

  1. It’s the comic where Batman got his start, 27 issues later.
  2. It’s the reason that same company would be called “DC”

DC is unquestionably the first of the major comic companies and as such, we’ll be talking about them first.

  • Major Heroes:
  • Wonder Woman
  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Batgirl
  • Aquaman
  • Green Lantern
  • The Flash
  • Shazam
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Canary
  • Nightwing
  • The Teen Titans – Team
  • The Justice League – Team
  • Major Villains:
  • Lex  Luthor
  • The Joker
  • Sinestro
  • Black Adam
  • Deathstroke
  • Darkseid
  • Captain Cold
  • Black Manta
  • Ra’s Al Ghul
  • Harley Quinn
  • The Suicide Squad – Team
  • The Injustice League – Team

Throughout it’s extensive history DC has had some major landmark moments such as creating the Superhero genre, introducing some of the 20th century’s most endearing characters, starting the silver age of comics,(Showcase #4) buying up multiple comic companies in the 60’s and 70’s, (Thus, doubling their roster with the likes of Captain Marvel/Shazam, Blue Beetle and The Question) and of course, having the first major superhero film and show.(Batman ’66) It has naturally had to change with the times over the years, as is to be expected but by doing that they also revolutionized the same industry that they helped to create. What I’m primarily referring to is the idea of Multiverse.(I’ll be going more into that in Part 4 or 5 of Comics 101.) The basic premise of the idea is that there are multiple earths/universes happening simultaneously, some with small differences (like Clark Kent not becoming Superman until his mid twenties) and some with massive changes (like Clark Kent becoming Ultraman, an evil superpowered dictator.)  The main reason for this was to explain how there could be so many different versions of the same comic characters, like an older and younger Superman who are in the same universe but one of them is from a different earth…Which leads me to the main thing that separates DC from Marvel: Legacy Characters.

Legacy characters are a very important and key aspect to the infrastructure of DC comics. The main reasons for this is because almost every hero in DC has another hero before or after them. Whether it’s Nightwing, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl or Aqualad they are the ones who will one day inherit what their mentors left behind. These characters have gone on to become some of DC’s biggest stars, Nightwing alone has gathered a huge following since he switched from Robin in 1984. Some could even say that some of these characters are more popular then their predecessors, prime example for this being Wally West being more popular as the Flash than Barry Allen. (Admittedly that last point could easily be contested but I’m just speaking in generalities based upon my generation’s love of Wally.)

DC Flourished throughout the years creating the first Superhero, the first superhero team,(The Justice Society of America) creating the first team of Teenagers,(The Teen Titans) making Batman the Dark Knight that he was meant to be,(Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams run in the 70’s), creating the first event comic,(Crisis On Infinite Earths) helping to make the 80’s one of the best decades for comics and of course, helping to make the 90’s almost unbearable to read. In 70 plus years, it’s been a great company that for better or for worse can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten or unread by any comic fan.

So why do the multiverse and legacy characters matter to DC but not to Marvel? Well the multiverse does matter to Marvel,(See 2015’s Secret Wars and the preceding Avengers and New Avengers runs by Jonathan Hickman) just not quite as much as it does to DC. As for the legacy characters, the thought process comes from the fact that Stan Lee didn’t really like Sidekicks. In his career, characters like Bucky Barnes and Rick Jones were really the only technical sidekicks he created. He always dealt more with the ideas of teams like X-Men, Fantastic Four and the Avengers.

Speaking of Marvel…let’s head on over to their side

  • Major Heroes:
  • Spider-Man
  • Captain America
  • Black Widow
  • Captain Marvel
  • Iron Man
  • Hulk
  • Wolverine
  • Hawkeye
  • Jessica Jones
  • Ant-Man
  • Black Panther
  • Daredevil
  • Avengers(Team)
  • X-Men(Team)
  • Fantastic Four(Team)
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy(Team)

 

  • Major Villains:
  • Red Skull
  • Loki
  • Venom
  • Green Goblin
  • Magneto
  • Thanos
  • The Mandarin
  • Kingpin
  • Dr. Octopus
  • Ultron
  • Dr. Doom
  • Mephisto
  • The Thunderbolts(Team of reformed villains so technically they’re anti heroes)
  • Masters Of Evil(Team)
  • Brotherhood of Evil Mutants(Team)
  • The Sinister Six(Team)

Marvel began back in the late 30’s as Timely Comics, creating characters like Namor and the first Human Torch and of course, Captain America. The main problem with the heroes of Marvel(and to some extent those of DC as well) was the fact that most of them began because of the second world war. So why have those heroes if there wasn’t a war? These were the questions that the companies would ask during the late 40’s and early 50’s. They took some characters and tried to adapt them into horror comics, which had horrendous consequences when Frederic Wertham tried to ban comics during the 50’s. It got bad enough that Marvel, which was currently called Atlas Comics, was about to go bankrupt and close the doors forever. Stan Lee, who was about to leave the company, was given free reign to write anything he wanted to and so he created a family of superheroes, the first family, the Fantastic Four and then Marvel became a global phenomenon. Character after character and story after story, Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Mantlo, Layton, Thomas, Aparo and the rest were building the company into something that would shape the the history of comics for the next 50 years.

Marvel has also had many great moments in their history such as bringing back Captain America,(Avengers #4) Creating the first Anti-Hero,(The Punisher) creating stories that feature real life events, (Amazing Spider-Man 98-100 where Peter tackles the growing problem of Drugs) creating the first main Graphic Novel,(The Death of Captain Marvel) utilizing the first cross media publication rights,(Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers, ROM, Secret Wars and many others) helping to make the 80’s one of the greatest decades in comics and of course, helping to make the 90’s unbearable to read.

Overall, both of these companies have clearly given much to the lore and history of comics. For many fans, they are the only comics. I’ve loved both of them for very different reasons throughout the entirety of my life and I always will.

Next time on Comics 101 we get to talk about the films, how they got started, why certain characters can’t crossover and how they’ve affected the comic fandom as a whole. Did it help it or hurt it? Check back soon to find out.

A Response to an IGN Article.

Jesse Schedeen, who writes at IGN, wrote an article a few weeks ago asking the question: “Is Marvel Losing Ground to DC?” I would like to write a counterpoint article. Take note of a few things before we proceed:

  1. I still have great respect  for Mr. Schedeen as a writer and this article is just where me and him see differently on a few things.
  2. I’m not just a “Marvel Fanboy” I have great love for what DC has done, Rebirth has had some really solid comics and some really bad ones. That being said…

Is Marvel losing ground to DC? No. Absolutely not. Now, Mr. Schedeen wrote his article  before Marvel released their Fall line-up so he is at a slight disadvantage but I don’t think his opinions would’ve changed that much. Many of his issues with the company were things that will most likely continue into this next season but whereas they are things that he might be upset with, most of them are things that I can’t wait for. Prime Example: I love the idea of two new people taking on the mantle of Iron Man but him and many others most likely hate the idea. WiseSage himself has said that he will miss Tony Stark as Iron Man but he, like me, is open to new storylines. I had originally planned on doing an entire article on the new line-up but just about everything I could say has already been given on any number of articles on other sites so instead I’ll be talking a bit about the ones I’m excited for while responding to Mr. Schedeen’s article. If you’re interested in seeing all of the solicitations then you can see them here: http://comicsalliance.com/marvel-now-previews-line-up/

So why do I think Marvel isn’t losing ground to DC? Simple: DC’s not willing to take a risk and when they do, it’s the wrong risk. Let Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi have very little editorial backlash? Bad Risk. Make Pre-Flashpoint Superman an idiot? Bad Risk. Use Titans to forget about one of the most beloved Teen Titans runs? Really Bad Risk. Now, Don’t think that I’m just hating on DC all throughout this article because I’m not. In fact, Here’s some good risks they’ve taken.

  • Keeping Robert Venditti on Green Lantern was a very good decision. He had the unenviable task of following Johns and yes, his earlier stuff was a little rough but he only got better the more I read. Godhead was a fantastic storyline and I loved Hal going rogue. It was a different take but it never stopped being fun.
  • Letting Tom King take over on Batman was absolutely perfect. Both of these decisions were mainly risks due to the fact that their previous writers were Eisner award winners and anybody would be a risk in comparison but King was clearly the best choice. His Batman has already given us some amazing things to see and it’s only on the third issue.
  • Bringing Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz back to the forefront of DC and making them Earth’s primary Lanterns was a perfect move. These two were not only great diverse characters in their own right they were also horribly underused and deserved their own story. Also, Sam Humphries was a great choice for writer here.
  • Everything about Detective Comics, Nightwing and Green Arrow have been perfect. That is all.

See? I like DC and I want them to succeed but let’s face the fact that if we’re looking at DC You/Rebirth VS. Secret Wars/All-New, All-Different Marvel then Marvel has clearly won over the last year and a half. Secret Wars was easily one of my all time favorite event comics and every Marvel comic that I’ve read since then has been at least a 7 out of 10.(I haven’t read all of them but seriously most of them have been pretty solid.)

Something else that Marvel has done is perfected the idea of a reboot. Instead of restarting every 3 or 4 years, Marvel is now working on a seasonal schedule like a television series. Now every fall we get to see all of the wild changes, new comics and new characters for us to enjoy. I love this system because it gives people a perfect jumping on point once a year while also carrying on all the great stories that us comic readers already love.

Something else that I love that Marvel is doing is building up their characters. Ask someone who Marvel’s best character is and you could get a plethora of answers now ranging from household names like Iron Man and Spider-Man all the way to previously unknown heroes like Star-Lord and Jessica Jones. Marvel has built their roster up to where there are no more obscure heroes or villains. Everyone has the ability of being an A-Lister now. If you told me 10 years ago that Carol Danvers(Captain Marvel) would be headlining the summer event comic with Iron Man then I would’ve thought you were crazy, not because she wasn’t any good but because she wasn’t really a headlining fan-favorite yet.

Now contrast that with DC, they have great characters but they’re not willing to branch out too far from the main ones. Ask someone who the best DC character is and you’ll get some who say Superman, some who say Wonder Woman, a few would say Flash and most would say Batman. Nothing wrong with those answers because those guys are great but they’re everywhere for DC. Why doesn’t the Justice League Line-Up change? Why hasn’t anyone besides Scott Snyder, Robert Venditti and Geoff Johns created new characters?(That last one is a slight exaggeration but it still holds some weight)

A great example of what they should do came from WiseSage. His plan was that they should make the Justice League like it was in the 80’s with a few heavy hitters like Flash and Aquaman and then build up some lesser known characters like Black Canary and Blue Beetle. I think it’s a great idea and a perfect way to build up your roster.

What’s that? It would never work? well I have two words for you, random naysayer: Young. Justice. How many non comic readers do you think knew about Jaime Reyes, Kaldur’ahm or Artemis before that show? Probably not too many and yet they all became fan favorites. I don’t understand why DC animated and DC Comics both let this goldmine fall to the wayside. I would buy a Young Justice comic, I’d watch a Season 3 and I’d buy as many action figures and shirts as it took to keep it on the air. This was a show that started a movement that hasn’t been seen since Batman: The Animated Series(Yup, I said it.) and yet for some reason DC has allowed them to become “Forgotten.”

Meanwhile, Marvel has put some of it’s best talent on their fan favorite books. Soule on Daredevil, Bendis on Guardians Of The Galaxy and Coates on Black Panther have all given us some great comics and it will only continue after this fall. I love DC but they’ve got a long road ahead of them before they can catch up to Marvel.

“Hold Fast” DC Rebirth’s First month.

“Hold fast to Dreams, for if Dreams die then life is a broken-winged bird, that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes.

As I previously wrote, Rebirth was an idea that would either be a massive success or an amazing disappointment and unfortunately it has been a solid split down the middle. There have been some stories that were great and there have been some that were literally some of the worst I’ve read. My goal here has been to read these and write about them with an optimistic outlook on the event…but they’re not making it easy.

Now, I bought every issue that had Rebirth over the top of it that came out this month, I won’t be doing that again next month unless I get a request for it so hit me up on Facebook or in the comments section if you’d like to make a request.

Green Arrow

Let’s start off with one that I actually really enjoyed. These first two issues were outstanding. Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt are a great team to have on this. This was the only one from the first month that I wasn’t planning on getting but I picked up the first issue and loved it and two weeks later I picked up the second and now I have to sign up for it. It’s a great starter for anyone who wants to understand who Green Arrow and Black Canary really are.(It’s not, however, for fans of the show because these characters actually make logical decisions *Gasp!* and don’t backtrack on their moral choices a season later “The Horror!”.) I loved how we turned Green Arrow back into a hero of the people. They call him a social justice hero and that’s absolutely the best way to describe him. The second issue has one of my favorite speeches ever given by a comic book character, I won’t spoil it here but it’s when he explains to Black Canary what “Happiness is…” It’s just a great sequence and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

Green Lanterns

I have a very interesting history with Green Lantern. I wasn’t a huge DC fan until 2008 or ’09, I loved The big characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and I’ve always loved Nightwing and the Teen Titans and most of that came from the shows and films but the rest of this beautifully dense universe didn’t become a huge part of my life until I read Grant Morrison’s run on Batman(an article for another time) and Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern. Green Lantern quickly became one of my all time favorite characters and I couldn’t get enough of his story. Well Johns has clearly always had a big hand in the Green Lantern mythos and Rebirth was no different, he co-wrote the first issue with Sam Humphries and it became a little meta textual in the story. The Story is that Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are the new Green Lanterns of Earth while Hal Jordan is off to find the rest of the Green Lantern Corps that has disappeared.(Much like Johns leaving to save the films while Humphries writes Green Lanterns, Whoa.) Before gaining the ring, Cruz suffered from a constant fear that she was always going to be attacked or hurt if she ever left her apartment, she still struggles with it but I like that because fear isn’t something that just goes away. Baz is a Muslim man that has been feared and hated most of his life. He recently gained the ring while wrongfully imprisoned and quickly discovered that he could do things with his ring that no other Green Lantern could, he struggles with trust issues which is where this story takes off. I loved the first two issues and I’m so happy that DC has decided to do more with these two great characters.

Batman

How do you follow the greatest Batman run of all time? This is the question that Tom King clearly had to ask himself before taking over Batman. Luckily for him, he already had the backing of Scott Snyder and Geoff Johns in this venture and he had some brilliant plans for how to make his Batman standout by using his experience from the C.I.A. to improve his stories and his way of writing. The first issue was co-written with Snyder as an epilogue to his perfect run and give an idea of what to expect and while it’s very good the second issue is the one that I’m going to focus on. It deals with something thst we haven’t seen Batman take on before: A plane crash. We’ve seen Wonder Woman, Superman and even Flash take care of this problem but we’ve never seen Batman do it until now. King writes him in a very intelligent way, he remains unstoppable and uncompromising when it comes to human lives and that’s why it works so well. My personal favorite quote is when he and Duke Thomas are talking about what they need to do to stop the plane and Duke says that it won’t be easy to which Batman responds : “I don’t need easy, Mr. Thomas.” It just made me really happy because he is the Batman that DC needs right now.

Titans

Titans Rebirth…I have so many concerns. Dan Abnett and Brett Booth are great. Let me go ahead and clarify that the creative talent on this story is not the source of my worries at all. My biggest worry is what Rebirth had already hinted at, not everything is back to normal. DC has effectively done the exactly what they did in 2011, some things are the same, some things are different and Batman is still arguably the best book on the stands. The one big change is that The Titans books aren’t being written by a hack like Scott Lobdell, instead, This one, focusing on the original Teen Titans from the 60’s, is being written by Dan Abnett and then starting in September, Ben Percy will be taking on Teen Titans which will be focusing on the younger group. I’m personally very excited for the other series and I was excited to read this series until I read the first book.

My review of this book has to be separated into two parts

  1. Rebirth Issues : The first issue was very good but had a problem of not knowing what story was still in continuity. When this title was originally announced, I had assumed that the entire purpose of it was to feature the older Titans from Marv Wolfman’s run in a more adult setting with them being the bridge team between the older Justice League and the younger Teen Titans but I was shocked that when I read this issue it appeared to focus entirely on the team before the New Teen Titans. But wait, they forgot about The New Teen Titans back in 2011 and I wasn’t upset, right? Well you’re correct but in 2011 they didn’t make it seem like this new universe was going to include everything that the DC Universe had published before. They called it a reboot which meant that it was a brand new story but now this Rebirth makes it seem like there are certain things that are important but then certain things don’t even matter anymore which is upsetting to me. I’m fine with certain things being Ret-Conned(Taken out of continuity) but if you’re going to do it then be clear about it. Also, if The New 52 is still in Continuity then why is Donna Troy not freaking out and killing everything in sight? If we’re taking anything out then I agree that it should be the Finch’s run on Wonder Woman but the need for clarification on what is and isn’t still important is definitely missing here.
  2. I didn’t hate this book because even though it had some issues here and there it was still written and drawn well. This is a great team that is going to bring us quality stories but I can’t be completely satisfied until they officially tell me if one of my favorite comic runs has been taken out completely.

The Flash

Josh Williamson was, in my opinion, DC’s best acquisition of the new Rebirth talent. His big claim to fame was the crime thriller Nailbiter and it shows in this comic in a very good way. He writes Barry as a person who is haunted by the things he can’t change even while being the fastest man alive. He’s such a great character no matter what but Williamson has nailed it in the first two issues, the setup for the new characters is great and I can’t wait to see how Barry handles all of these new people. The story picks up a few days before Wally comes back and then after he returns we get to see the rest of the conversation at the end of Rebirth. The first issue doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on but it’s still very good. The second issue is where we get to see more of the story progression and we even got to see New 52 Wally, definitely a concern since Red-Headed Wally came back. One of the other things I’me excited to see is this new villain that we’ve read about in the solicitations, I expect him to be terrifying because those are the villains that Williamson does very well and it’s also a good contrast to have against Barry.

Overall The team has done a great job on this one and I’m excited to see where the story goes from here with the new speedsters.

Action Comics

As I’ve said before, this comic is pure insanity but it actually isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The basic premise of the book is that in the wake of Superman’s death Lex Luthor has stepped up and become the new Superman. If it stopped there then I think this could be my favorite book of the new line-up because Luthor is my favorite villain and I think that a story of him trying to be a better man would be great…if it didn’t have to deal with the rest of the story that Jurgens has given us. There’s actually another Superman from an alternate earth that has decided to become Superman because he thinks that Luthor is still evil and trying to trick everybody. Superman, who, for some reason is an idiot, attacks Luthor and then Doomsday comes out of nowhere while they’re fighting. Think it’s complicated? it gets worse because then a new Clark Kent comes out of nowhere. I don’t even understand what they’re trying to do with him, is he superpowered? instead of dying was he actually just depowered? how did he walk around the daily planet without anyone noticing?

The second issue is more of the same, everyone should listen to Lex Luthor, Lois stays with their son and says random things that don’t really make sense, the new Clark dances around giving a straight answer to anything, Doomsday is still a one note character(No, I don’t care that he’s “strategic” now) and the older Superman is an idiot. I had a lot of high hopes for this series and it could still be good but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as it could be.

Overall if this book didn’t have Lex Luthor then it wouldn’t be worth much but luckily he’s fantastic in this so if you’re a Luthor fan like me then you should pick this up.

Detective Comics

On the complete other end of the spectrum stands Detective Comics, which is absolutely fantastic. Not only is it incredibly entertaining but it also does very well with the idea of Hope and Optimism by once again using a villain who wants to become a better person. The execution on the first issue is almost perfect, it introduces all of the characters in a great way that I enjoyed immensely. Basically, Batman realizes that there are people targeting the heroes of Gotham and so he asks Batwoman(Kathy Kane) to help him train them to become an elite fighting force. The team is Batman and Batwoman as leaders with Robin(Tim Drake), Spoiler(Stephanie Brown), Orphan(Cassandra Cain) Clayface(Basil Karlo). Like I said the team is jsut very fun to read about and I can’t wait to see more of them. Stephanie and Tim have some great moments together but the standout of the first issue is clearly Batwoman, as an ex-marine she already knows how to fight as a unit which is why Batman wants her to train the team. Her lessons and her discussions with her father and Batman were definitely some of the months biggest highlights.

I love what Tynion is doing with this, while building off the relationships that he built between the characters in Batman and Robin Eternal while also making this work as a standalone without needing any prior knowledge of what has come before. Him and Barrows have already made this the best of the first month and I have no doubt that they will continue in the same way for many more issues.

 

Aquaman

I won’t lie here, The first issue of Aquaman really had me worried. It focused too much on making sure that he wasn’t considered to be a joke character anymore. That being said, him and Mera had some great moments and it was a good lead-in to the story but much like Batman, The second one is the standout issue. The main focus of the story is one Aquaman wanting to join the nations of the world to Atlantis. He wants to do this by inviting different representatives of the world to come to the atlantean embassy. I don’t wanna spoil too much but it has some great moments about ATlantean culture and it’s relationship with the surface world and it has some great moments from Mera. Which is great cause Mera’s always awesome. If Abnett got one thing right about the Aquaman universe then it was definitely the idea of Mera being the anchor for Arthur. I’ve always loved watching their love story as much as I love all of the great heroics. Can’t wait to see where this story goes after that killer cliffhanger.

Wonder Woman

Of all the comics that came out this month, Wonder Woman is the one that is most up in the air. When it was announced that Greg Rucka would be taking over I was ecstatic, but after reading his first two Issues I have some hesitance towards it. First, he is the only one that is using the Bi-Weekly schedule to his advantage in the sense of one week is the current story and then two weeks later you get to see her origin. It’s a great set-up and Rucka is doing an exceptional writing job but I do worry that we’re cancellijng out Azzarello’s run and I can’t abide that. The main reasons I’m not 100% behind this or against it is because Diana is hunting down her origin in the comic so I’m not sure if we still have Azzarello or not and although that’s an issue, it does guarantee return readers though.

As for Diana herself, Rucka writes her as well as he did back in 2005, she has a furious nature while also being very gentle and that’s hard for some writers to find that happy medium but Rucka does well like he always does. Overall, Great story and you should go and get it.

Superman

And at last we’ve come to it. This might be my least favorite comic book of all time. The second issue belongs in the pantheon of awful books like DC’s Convergence and Marvel’s Ultimatum. Peter J. Tomasi was the man who wrote The Last Days Of Superman over the final two months of The New 52, It was hopeful, emotional and was an overall great story…until you realized that it was leading up to this. Patrick Gleason has joined Tomasi in this latest story, taking over art duties and Co-Writing, and I expected to get a great story from the men who kept Batman and Robin going for so long. Instead we get depressing sub-plots and illogical character decisions. In the first issue, Older Superman(from a different earth, check out future installments of Comics 101 to learn more about multiple earths.) is trying revive Younger Superman who has recently died. Older Superman had died before and was brought back to life so this isn’t as crazy as it sounds…until it totally is. They can’t find the machine that could bring him back so they just give up basically. Some fans will say that he was finally becoming the Superman we needed, which is fine except for the fact that it seems really forced for him to come to this decision over the course of two pages. When Bucky becomes the new Captain America in Brubaker’s run, he does it over four or five issues which is a long time in the comic book world.

So basically the ending of the first issue is sad Superman isn’t as sad anymore and decides to become Superman again. Well what about the second issue?

Well Superboy, the son of Lois and Clark, is running along in the field with his lovable cat Goldie(Hope you don’t like that cat) and then a Hawk swoops down and snatches Goldie up(Wait, it gets worse) and while trying to save the cat, Superboy ends up frying them both with his heat vision and the charred corpses land at Superboy’s feet in the most horrifying comic book panel I have ever read.(Wow)

Superman is my favorite character and I constantly have to defend him as my favorite. But this story, this is why people don’t like him because people constantly forget how to write him. The first issue was boring and generic and the second issue got way too dark, way too fast. I’m not saying that comics can’t be more adult but this was reaching a Garth Ennis level of Violence.

I’m gonna give it until August which due to the Bi-Weekly shipping that’s six issues, or the length of the average graphic novel. Honestly, the only reason I haven’t cancelled it is so I don’t screw up my LCS'(Local Comic Shop) order too bad. Tomasi and Gleason would have to do something amazing to make this book anything but the first dropped book of this event.

 

In closing, Rebirth has had some great things happen in a few titles but it’s also had a whole lot of bad. The quantity of good books outweighs the bad currently but it has to be said that if you’re not watching out for your flagship character then something is a little off from the editorial side and only time will tell if any of the other books will be affected. The title of this article is taken from a great poet who implores us to not let our dreams die. I have many dreams about what DC could be. How it could form into a beautifully crafted story featuring some of the greatest characters that the world has ever seen. How it would showcase the hope and optimism that we need to see amid such dark times. Much like Norman McCay in Kingdom Come we have to stand and watch as these terrible things happen without the ability to fix them. Which is why we need Superman to come back and show us the way…but that’s hard to do when he’s being written by someone who clearly misunderstands hope.

The Forgotten: My Thoughts on DC Rebirth.

First and foremost, Major Spoiler warning, I tried doing this without spoilers but even the first 5 pages are full of moments that will have massive repercussions over the next few months.

 

 

Still here? Alright good…but just to be sure…

 

So yesterday saw the release of DC Rebirth #1 and I’m sorry I took forever in writing this article but I had to process the issue and really approach this with a level head. For those of you that don’t know then this is the ultimate DC event that’s going to be a soft reboot of all of their comics. This is also the last comic that Geoff Johns is going to write for the foreseeable future. As I previously wrote about, he is going to go and head up the new DC Films and is focusing the majority of his time on that. I’m okay with Johns taking a break but not the way that they’re going about it. Rebirth doesn’t answer all of the questions that we have and I’m worried about other people carrying the story after Johns is gone. This is a story that could easily go off the rails quickly. Johns as a writer knows and loves these characters, he wants them to succeed and be as great to us as they are to him. His writing in this issue is some of the best he’s done since his Green Lantern finale but that’s exactly why it’s sad to lose him right here. He and the company used this issue to “fix” the DC universe and the “problems” of the New 52 and he did so in a way that only a certain group of people could be upset with, the only problem is that that group of people are the people who were helping to keep the lights on.

DC Rebirth #1 is narrated by Wally West, a character who’s original incarnation has been missing since the start of The New 52. Many fans wanted his return to DC and I did too. They brought us a new Wally West and although he was good, he was vastly different from who we were used to, the new Wally was a kid who was troubled and hung out with the wrong crowds and he had to be coached into becoming the hero we needed. The original Wally was the heart of The Teen Titans, he was the Flash that my generation grew up with and he deserved better than to just be “Forgotten”

That word takes on a new meaning in this issue because instead of dying, Wally has been flung through the speed force since The New 52 started. He wasn’t dead, he was just “Forgotten” It’s a very miserable existence and what’s worse is that he sees this darkness growing and can do nothing to stop it. He keeps trying to return to our world and while he’s trying when he finally does get back he tells us that our heroes have been weakened since The New 52 started. The villains of this time theft have been revealed as none other than Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Watchmen. I actually really like bringing them in because Johns has spoken multiple times about a return of Hope and Optimism in the comics and films and there’s no greater villain for that then the cynicism of The Watchmen.  So now that Wally is back and he remembers everything that happened before The New 52 he can tell all of our new heroes about the people that they could be and once were which I guess I’m ok with that but I liked the characters in The New 52. One of the other things that Johns spoken about was a return to the legacy of DC. Which is great…but don’t forget the legacy of The New 52.

Chris Sims once wrote about “The Problem” and this issue coupled with the release of Batman V. Superman : Dawn of Justice solidifies it. The basic premise of “The Problem” is that DC has chased the popularity of Marvel for the past 50 years and they just can’t reach it.(Seriously, the entire article is worth your time. Go check it out.) He’s right about the idea and I do believe that it is a factor but the real problem in this instance is that DC hasn’t believed in the New 52 for the last two years. Batman was the only consistent run throughout the entirety of 2011-2016 and that was only because of Snyder, Capullo and Miki just all being exceptional creators. Everything else just sort of faded out and it seemed like DC didn’t care. Scott Lobdell still has a job as a writer even though he has put forth almost no effort to better his writing. They let Pak, Bunn, Lemire and Fialkov slip through their fingers even though they were fantastic and you know what the worst problem was? They listened to the whinier fans instead of the ones that were actually buying the books. So instead of adapting the story to be both a fan service and an exceptional creative opportunity DC just told us that we were wrong for buying all of those comics for the past 5 years and that these characters were weakened versions of our favorite heroes. Phenomenal Stories like “Goddess Of War”, “Throne Of Atlantis”, “Zero Year”, “Endgame”, “The Red and The Green”, “Forever Evil” and many others may never matter again. I’m hoping that they don’t do away with them but there is a good chance that it could happen.

I will hang onto my optimism for DC for as long as I can but currently the truth is that for those of us who fell in love with The New 52, the ones who spent time and money buying these books and following these characters we are the ones who will still read DC, we are the ones who will still love the Hope that they have shown us but, sadly, we are the ones who have been Forgotten.

DC Rebirth: Cautious Optimism

For months we in the comic book world have been hearing about DC Rebirth.  This company-wide initiative is designed to reinvigorate the creative juices at DC and inspire a new direction that will allow for innovation in comics, and… Synergy? Unity? (I’m running out of buzzwords…)

You know what, lets just say it: Rebirth is about making money.  Plain and simple.  And please, let us not pretend to be offended by that fact.  In all honesty, DC has to do something.  Ever since “DC You,” they have been getting crushed by Marvel in the sales column, and it is not as if the sales are an aberration.  Marvel’s creative output has been close to flawless, and, unlike DC, their ventures into the mainstream have been extremely well-received, particularly on the cinematic front.  So what is DC to do?  Well, apparently you turn to Geoff Johns, and you have him write a Rebirth story.  It has worked in the past, so it will work again, right?  Personally, I am cautiously optimistic about this whole thing.  However, there are some warning bells that I believe we should be aware of.  Therefore, before next weeks giant 80 page spectacular, I believe it would be prudent to examine some of the things that make me more “cautious” than “optimistic.

A Dearth of Big Name Creators

Let us travel back in time to the launch of the New 52.  When the reboot was announced, most of us marveled at the veritable murderer’s row that DC was rolling out.  You had Geoff Johns on Justice League, Aquaman, and Green Lantern.  Scott Snyder, as the number one up and coming writer in the business, took over the Batman title.  Grant Morrison was on Action Comics.  Gail Simone was on Batgirl.  Brian Azzarello was given Wonder Woman, a fact which surprised many people, due to his typically dark subject matter.  Granted, there were some missteps, but for the most part DC was actively trying to get the nest possible creators for their New 52 lineup.

Flash forward now to the end of March 2016.  The titles have been announced, but we are waiting to hear who the creative teams will be.  After all, they are having a massive presentation to tell us who will be doing what, so surely they have some big names lined up for this massive Rebirth.  Vance and I were literally drooling over the possibilities.  Would Morrison be given a title?  What is Scott Snyder going to do?  Would there be any surprises?  And so we huddled around our phone and waited for the bombshells.  And the sad fact is… we are still waiting.  Here is what we got:

Peter J. Tomasi on Superman

Dan Jurgens on Action Comics

Scott Lobdell (danger Will Robinson) on Red Hood and the Outlaws.

No Greg Pak.  No Cullen Bunn.  No Babs Tarr, which is really strange considering how successful her Batgirl has been.  It is almost as if every creator who wrote strong titles for the New 52 has been excised from Rebirth.  And understand, with the exception of Lobdell (who has already had one much maligned run on Red Hood and the Outlaws), I do not have any problems with any of their creative choices.  Jurgens and Tomasi are seasoned vets at this point.  But where have all the up and coming creators gone?  Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart, and Brendan Fletcher redefined Batgirl.  Cullen Bunn wrote a fantastic Sinestro comic.  Remember all the hype David Walker was getting for his Cyborg comic?  Where did he go?  And why did DC stick Gene Luen Yang on a comic no one is going to read? Also, remember how Jason Fabok was going to be the next big artist?  Where is he at?  Granted, Tom King is taking Batman, which should be great.  Tim Seeley on Nightwing and Joshua Williamson on Flash both have a lot of potential.  And of course, there is Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman.  But even with Rucka’s announcement I found myself excited and at the same time thinking, “We have seen this before.”

And before I get accused of being pessimistic, then compare Rebirth’s strategy to what Marvel has done with Black Panther.  When Marvel needed a knockout writer to create the Black Panther mythos for a new generation of readers they went out and got Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York Times writer and winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant).  When DC needed a writer for their new Superman comics, which are each supposed to launch a new direction for Superman, they let their best Superman writer walk (Greg Pak), stuck their closest equivalent to a Ta-Nehisi Coates (Gene Luen Yang) on a comic that will be cancelled in 6 months, and went with two guys who haven’t written a best selling comic in at least 10 years in Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi.  I cannot help but find this troubling.

Rebirth is a Completely Reactionary Event

Here is an actual quote from the DC Comics Preview Guide for April, regarding the new Green Arrow title.  “Readers are aching for the reunion of Green Arrow and Black Canary, and we’re finally going to give it to them.  Also returning?  Green Arrow’s goatee.”  Sign me up!  I was iffy, and then they mentioned facial hair.

In all seriousness, within that quote from Ben Percy (who I actually think will do a bang up job on Green Arrow) lies one of the major problems with Rebirth, namely, that the entire endeavor seems to be a reaction to the whining of the old guard DC fans.  I am actually shocked that they  haven’t killed off the new Wally West and brought back the pre-new 52 Wally.  My least favorite aspect of this is what they are doing with Superman.  From what I can gather, the New-52 version of Superman is going to die and the pre-Crisis version of Superman is returning.  Which, in my opinion, negates everything that has happened in the New 52 with the character.  And make no mistake, they did a lot with the Superman character.  They gave him a new love interest in Wonder Woman.  They gave him a new power in the “solar flare.”  Now, apparently all that is going away.  Does this mean that 2011-2016 will be remembered as this time when we had a fake Superman, and the rest of his 75-plus years we had the right Superman?  I know the argument will be, “Well actually they are both the real Superman, because they are from different universes/timelines.”  All that is fine, but it still means that 2011-2016 will have an asterisk next to it, when it comes to Superman, because that Superman was replaced.  Hey remember when Marvel tried to tell its customers that Ben Reilly was the actual Spider-Man, and Peter Parker was a clone?  How is this any different?

This all stems from the fact that there is a contingence of fans who have complained about everything the New 52 has done.  They hated Superman’s armor, they hated the collar on his costume, they hated his relationship with Wonder Woman, and they want their old comics back.  However, say what you will about the New 52, but it was anything but reactionary.  In fact, the only thing it was reacting to was the fact that DC had literally told every story they could.  I mean, they had the Infinite Crisis, they had Rebirths of both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, they had the Sinestro Corps war, they had the Final Crisis, both Blackest Night and Brightest Day… what else was there to do?  By resetting the timeline, what they essentially did was allow everyone to jump into comics without having 30 years (or more) backstory explained.  Contrast this with Rebirth, which seems to want to add everything back, so that we can have things like 2 Clark Kents.  It could work, but I am a little skeptical.  I’m not sure this will please longtime fans, and I do not see how it can bring in new fans.

The Last Stand of Geoff Johns

When Geoff Johns came on stage during the Rebirth presentation at WonderCon, he was introduced as if he is the Michael Jordan of comic books.  This really isn’t too far from the truth.  In the 21st Century only Brian Michael Bendis has wielded anywhere near the power or has had a hand in as many epic events.  His influence is evident all through the comic world.  And, when Johns wants to be, he is, arguably, the best comic book writer in the world.  And yet, if Rebirth is his baby, then where is he in all this?  He is writing the giant Rebirth Special, and is helping Abnett on a future Aquaman story, but other than that he is not writing anything for Rebirth.  This troubles me, because if DC has two assets in their pocket, they have Scott Snyder and they have Geoff Johns, and yet Johns seems to be taking on an overseer’s role.  Will this work?  I’m not sure.

Here is what I know: 95% percent of the time Geoff Johns has delivered for DC in a big way.  It appears that his hands are all over this initiative, and that is, ultimately, a good thing.  When you strip everything else away, Geoff Johns is just a guy who loves comic books.  And that is what gives me hope.  Even within my reticence, I am willing to give this Rebirth a shot, because it is rare that Geoff Johns lets the comic book community down.

All that being said, who do we think is getting their arm cut off in the Rebirth Special?

 

Speeding Bullets #4

As always, the “Speeding Bullet” articles are focused on talking about the latest news in the world of fandoms. Typically if I talk about breaking news then I do it on the Facebook page but sometimes, certain subjects require a few more words…this is one of those times.

The State of DC Films: Can Geoff Johns save them?

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers. His work is full of hopeful messages, strong heroes and brilliant villains. Johns has, throughout his entire career, thrived on reviving properties that were either forgotten or weren’t selling very well. (“Green Lantern”, “Teen Titans”, “Justice Society of America”, ETC.) Now he has to revitalize something that has taken a turn for the worst: The DC Cinematic Universe. They’ve chosen him (as Chief Creative Officer) and Jon Berg (as Executive VP) to head up production of the newly created DC Films. Furthering themselves away from Warner Brothers and becoming their own entity is something that I have wanted ever since they announced a shared universe. I think on paper it is a brilliant move and I’m hoping they can stick the landing with it. Obviously some changes have needed to happen because no matter who you are, whether you hated or kinda liked it, you have to say that Batman V. Superman had it’s fair share of problems. I’m not doing this article to bash the film, I don’t want this site to become that, but it’s so clearly the reasoning behind this shake-up that it has to be referenced.

Considering that Johns is one of my favorite writers I want to enjoy this but I have to do this with a slight bit of reticence. I always try to look at the big picture and understand what decisions have to be made before we, the public, see anything. Johns is a great choice for leading the films but as WiseSage said to me, “It’s too reactive.” I agree with him to an extent because I, too, would have preferred DC to make this decision from the beginning but obviously that wasn’t the case. Instead we have to remedy the situation that has been placed before us. Naturally, WB/DC has seen the varying reactions to their film and Marvel’s “Civil War” and saw the stark contrast between their film being heralded as an apocalyptic force to the superhero genre and Marvel’s single-handedly making everyone believe in it again.

So, the question is: What can DC do to save themselves? Johns is a good start but this could create problems for their comics. Over the past few years Johns has been spread very thin over the Comics, Shows and Films and many people have deemed this to be a major issue with DC considering how certain issues with the comics or shows have only gotten worse or haven’t been fixed at all. This summer marks the premiere of “Rebirth” which is going to be a comic book event that could make or break them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for it but the more I consider it the more I see the chinks in their armor.(Be on the Lookout for WiseSage’s new article on the issues with “Rebirth” in the next few days) They have a limited number of A-List creators in their upcoming line-up and it worries me that their stories might be focused more on fixing the problems that people are complaining about and not about trying to create great stories in the first place.

I hear you already, “But Vance, isn’t fan outcry exactly what this entire article is about?” Yes, but not just for the sake of trying to please everyone. Comics, and their subsequent adaptations, are in their very nature something that is 50% based on fan appreciation and 50% on creative quality. If either one is compromised then something needs to be fixed.

In conclusion, Johns is someone that can easily turn DC around for the better. Less than 3 years ago, DC was at a new height of financial and creative power that I think they can easily return to with the right leadership.