Wednesday, June 8, 2011

OG Seebelow Re-Revived! Gets new costume! Joins JLA spinoff!

DC Comics ready for a risky yet relevant publishing change 
Here's a sneak preview of the Geoff Johns and
Jim Lee Bobblehead dolls from Funko!

As excited as Dan DiDio is about DC Comics' newest initiative, the company's co-publisher knows he can walk the hallways of the DC Comics offices in Manhattan and pick up the same vibe from his co-workers.

And if he doesn't, out come the whips and scorpions.

"If we can convince the people here we're doing something brand-new and fresh, we have a good chance to really get the people outside on board," DiDio says.

That’s what we call in the trade “A mighty big if,” partner.

DC will re-number its entire line of superhero titles, beginning with all-new No. 1 issues starting Aug. 31 — 52 in all, including a new Justice League No. 1. Fittingly, the publisher put its creative superteam on its trademark superhero superteam.


Guided by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee, Justice League will begin its first year with an updated secret origin reflecting DC's new initiative, giving the group a reason for coming together that it lacked when the league first appeared in 1960. And while it will ultimately boast 14 members, at its core will be DC's A-list do-gooders: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman.

"The approach is very much about who they are behind the masks and how they interact together and how these personalities mix," explains Johns, DC Entertainment's chief creative officer. "With the world's greatest superheroes, how does that team actually work? Do they all get along? Being able to pull together and see how that relationship is forged and continues to grow has to be at the heart of that book."

As you peruse that awkward mess of a sentence, keep in mind that this guy is a writer, folks.

For Lee, working on a team book is a different experience than a Superman or Batman, both of which he illustrated in recent years.

"When you have a Green Lantern mixing with a foil like Batman,

Batman is a BAT, Jim. You’re thinking of Foil-Man.

you get scenes that are comic-book history.

Or are “something that happens every month in Justice League already”.

There's the epicness of it all.

Right there! There it is! All the epicness!

You're dealing with iconic characters and you want to give them all equal grandeur and weight."

Well, no, no you really don't. In a character-driven story - especially one with an exceptionally large cast - you want to have inequality between the characters in order to have tension, which drives the story forward and gives characters the opportunity to react, grow, perform and generally define themselves in the context of the plot. Ideally, you have some characters whose roles are almost exclusively supportive and secondary, so that they help give structure to the larger story of the primary characters. This gives a story focus, and if you make everyone equal in value then you disperse the tension out across everyone and the story appears lackluster and devoid of emotional consistency.  BUT HEY this guy is the artist, I'm just busting his balls now ...

In the rollout of the revamped DC Universe, some titles will return, a lot of titles won't

(low whistle)

and DC will have a wider range of books starting in September, DiDio says. In addition, three-quarters of the creative teams will be shuffled around — series that are successful and writer/artist combinations that work well together won't be tweaked too much, he says.

I'm not really sure why you'd mess around with the teams that currently work just fine at all, but tweak away, man. It's your company.

"We've got a new set of creators coming in with new voices in the DC Universe," DiDio says. "We really want to bring a new energy and excitement to our books."

"We also have a lot of the same shitty old creators coming back to the books which I already thought sucked so bad we needed to relaunch the entire line. The new DC!"

The characters also are getting a makeover. While most of the specifics are still top secret, Lee says he worked with both staff and freelance artists to redesign costumes in a contemporary way as well as alter the physicality of many heroes and villains to modernize the DC Universe.

"You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too," Lee says.

Finally, something to like about all this business – cake.

"You're trying to keep the iconic elements there, but at the same time freshen up the look so that people are intrigued by what they're seeing and hopefully come and sample the wares."

“So they almost definitely should not have put me on this gig” said Lee, dismissively recalling Heroes Reborn.

The recent emphasis on diverse characters such as lesbian superheroine Batwoman, Hispanic hero Blue Beetle and African-American adventurer Cyborg (who will be a core member of Johns and Lee's new Justice League) also will continue.

Wow, they got one of everybody in there! Say, didn’t we have an Asian-American Atom around here somewhere? Whatever happened to that guy? Oh, that’s right, he’s dead in a matchbox.

There’s a particular irony in DC claiming to have an ‘emphasis’ on diversity - beyond how many of their ethnic and gender atypical characters they’ve chosen to kill off in recent years (although, to be fair, they killed off just about everybody at one point or another). More than that, though, they took their only two characters who’ve relied on prosthetics and appliances to overcome disabilities – one-armed archer Roy Harper and paraplegic Barbara Gordon – and made them whole-bodied again. 

"Diversity" in fiction is more than just counting skin color, it's about depicting the unique struggles and experiences of sub-groups and sub-communities within a larger population. While they're promoting Cyborg as the African-American guy on the front of their pamphlet, they're conceiving of him not as the victim of traumatic injuries who requires his prosthetics to survive (as he was, you know, originally conceived) but as ... - well, read on for that. But, essentially, "diversity" seems to mean "You can't sell action figures if they're in a wheelchair".

"He's a character I really see as the modern-day, 21st-century superhero," Johns says of Cyborg. "He represents all of us in a lot of ways.

“I’ll name one.”

If we have a cellphone and we're texting on it, we are a cyborg — "

You can always tell when Johns has been talking with Morrison. 

that's what a cyborg is, using technology as an extension of ourselves."

That is totally not what a cyborg is, Geoff. Cybernetics is expressly the scientific study of human physiological functions and the use of artificial mechanical means to replace them. That Cyborg has a manufactured eye which transmits visual information to his brain, that's what makes him a cyborg. That he can access Yahoo! Sports without an iPad isn't. 

What Johns is describing is "using tools", and by that definition I'm a cyborg every time I pick up a hammer. By that definition, we've had cyborgs since the Paleolithic era, and every time a chimp uses a twig to flush termites out of a mound, then he's a Chimpborg. By that definition, I'm a cyborg every time I slap a male prostitute in the face with my dick. Hold on ... I've said too much.

There will also be a lot of diversity in the products as well, DiDio promises.

There’s that word again.

"It's not just about straight superhero characters and stories.

“You saw we got Batwoman, right?”

We're going to use war comics, we have stories set in mystery and horror, we've got Westerns."

Groundbreaking. There's nothing more modern than the comics they published back in the Fifties.

While Lee allows that this kind of wholesale change is risky for DC, it's far more perilous to play it safe

By definition, it is never more perilous to play it safe. What monkey journalism school drop-out did they hire to write this thing?

and not periodically examine these characters and how they relate to the readership.

"It's part of our jobs to make sure that these characters stay dynamic and relevant," Lee says. "And that's what drove us on a creative level to make these kinds of changes."

And certainly not an attempt to make our comics lawsuit-proof by erasing all the Siegel, Kirby and Alan Moore contributions or to distract people from the economic swipe we've just delivered to brick-and-mortar comic shops or how by effectively having pulled out of those venues we'll have taken a shot at the indy and alternative markets which it's hard to argue were competitors at all. Dynamic and relevant, that's why!

OG Seebelow Revived! Gets own book from "new" DC (is cancelled two months later)

DC Comics unleashes a new universe of superhero titles
How sick are you of this picture already?

DC Comics has a new strategy to be No. 1 in comic books: all-new No. 1's.

Yes, DC will be doing number ones all over the place!

Starting this summer, the publisher will re-number its entire DC Universe of titles, revamping characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century.

Or, in the case of some characters like Wonder Woman, re-re-revamping them. Again. Also, nice to know that the 21st century is more modern than all the other centuries that have been or will be. That's modernity for you - it's contemporary!

The first book to be released under this new era: Justice League No. 1, out Aug. 31. The series by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee reunites the famous lineup of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

I’m guessing they would have called Martian Manhunter but his phone doesn’t get service on Mars.

Taking the place of the alien outsider who stuck out like a sore thumb among the ethnically consistent faces of the world’s premiere superhero collective will be a black dude.

Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam. "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes? That's what I wanted to explore," he says.

“But instead it ended up being a lot of explosions and stupid dialogue, like I usually do.”

In September, an additional 51 first issues will make their debut, introducing stories that are grounded in each character's specific legend but also reflect today's real-world themes and events.

That sounds … groundbreaking.

It's wonderful that they're launching 52 new titles (or, if not wonderful, then "pretty much what comics companies do, publishing titles"), but if the goal is to draw in new readers and get them emotionally (and, more importantly, financially) involved with the new books and new looks, then surely the question isn't "how many titles they are launching" but rather "What's their commitment to these titles?"

DC Comics under Dan Didio has a pretty inconsistent history with follow-through on any of their big ideas. With that in mind, what is his dedication to what appears to be a Pre-Re-Implosion Universe? If a book isn't selling after three issues, does it go down the drain? How will that resonate with the new readers he's trying to generate? 

Some of these books are going to be slow starters out of the gate, that's just to be expected when you've got 52 new number one issues starting up all at once. 

The lion's share of the market attention is bound to go to the Bats and Capes, Rings and Tits, so what happens when one of these titles inevitably dips below 30,000 by their second or third issue? Does Didio plan to exercise any kind of sticktuitiveness with all of these new franchises? Justice League is bound to go the distance, but how much loving care is he going to be willing to shell out for Justice League Dark (which is just like the regular Justice League only with Dark Chocolate instead of Milk Chocolate. Coming this Christmas, look for Justice League Peppermint and Chunky Justice League with Raisins).

Lee spearheaded the costumes' redesign to make characters more identifiable and accessible to comic fans new and old.

“I changed how they looked so people would recognize them better. Like, you know how in movies when an escaped criminal goes to a plastic surgeon and gets his face changed and goes back to get revenge on the people who ratted him out, the first thing everybody says is ‘Oh my god I totally knew it was you because you looked so different!’ … well, that’s what I’m doing here.”

V-collars make characters more accessible. Haven’t you read Understanding Comics?

"We really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC with Lee.

“Any ideas on how to do that?”

"This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

“We’re starting at what I like to call ‘an arbitrary point that comprises no discernable milestone.’”

In an even more important move in the competitive comics industry, DC is making all of the re-numbered titles available digitally via apps and a DC website the same day they arrive in comic shops. It marks the first time that a major comics publisher has done so with its popular superhero titles.

You know what this is going to do? It’s really going to stick it to comic shops. By the end of the year, I fully expect that about ninety percent of all the comic shops in America will dedicate no more than a single wall to print versions of new comics, and instead stack their shelves with a seemingly limitless supply of toys, action figures, statues, tee-shirts, keychains, magnets, baseball caps, novelty glassware, Heroclix and other licensed comic book-related collectibles. Mark my words, I have seen the future*!

In all seriousness, I do wonder how much the same day availability of digital comics will ultimately affect comics retailers/ While I was being flippant**, I honestly rarely find a comic shop where the actual comics comprise more than five or ten percent of the store stock - out of six in my immediate area, I can only think of one that even HAS a back issue section, or a reasonable selection of alternative and indy titles. I honestly have no idea what this will do to brick-and-mortar options, except I'll continue to not really go into them all that often. I'm full up on Heroclix.

(*And it looks like the mall)

(** …the butler was murdered!)

The company has come in second to Marvel every year since 2002 in market share, according to Diamond Comic Distributors.

Can’t you let them have this one, solitary moment of happiness, USA Today?

While the two companies are making millions off movie adaptations of their comic books, print sales for both have dropped in recent years, as new technology gives readers many more options.

For instance, “seeing movies” instead of “reading comics”.

"We're allowing people who have never bought a comic book in their lives to download them on portable media devices and take a look," Lee says.

“Before now, we strictly prohibited them from doing that, using remote controlled drones and off-duty border patrol agents.”

"Having the ability to give people access to these comics with one button click means we're going to get a lot of new readers."

"And there's no way they could just not click that button, right? Right?"