Tag Archives: Superman

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (http://karlkerschl.com)AdventureTime_v1
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (http://www.battlepug.com)
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

WonderCon 2012, Part 2

Arno Axolotl gets skewered in support of HBO's Game of Thrones.

TV

There were a number of panels relating to TV programs. Prime-time series Person of Interest, Alcatraz, Once Upon a Time, and Community all had well attended presentations. Since WonderCon came before the Fall schedule was announced, there were few new shows in evidence. I didn’t see it, but I think there were some teasers from the new Arrow program that is replacing Smallville.

There were several panels devoted to TV animation. I was unable to get into the Adventure Time panel, the only presentation I missed due to the room being full. I did see the DC Nation panel that previewed clips from Green Lantern: The Animated Series and the second season of Young Justice, as well as some of the short-shorts that they are playing on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, there was no real mention of the new Batman series or any other possible offerings that may be in development.

Alcatraz panel with stars Jorge Garcia, Sarah Jones, Parminder Nagra, Jonny Coyne, and Robert Forster, plus some of the writers and producers.

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Movies

One of the more fun panels during the convention was a retrospective of the movies from 1982. With such science fiction and fantasy classics as Star Trek II, Blade Runner, E.T., Tron, Poltergeist, Conan, and The Thing, not to mention cult classics like Megaforce, the panelists had a good time reminiscing and joking about their favorites.

Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott discuss Prometheus

There were a number of previews for this summer’s blockbusters. Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof were there in person to introduce the latest trailer for Prometheus. I still don’t really know what the movie will be like, but I expect an intelligent, thrilling adventure.

One of the highlights was the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, this looks to be a wild and exciting movie. Who knew Lincoln was such a bad-ass vampire killer!

Other previews included Battleship, which doesn’t look quite as lame as the first trailer made it look, but think it’s basically Transformers in sheep’s clothing—lots of explosions, but nonsensical. The preview for Snow White and the Huntsman looked interesting—certainly Snow White herself should be a strong female lead.

The weirdest preview was for a film called Sound of My Voice. They showed the first ten minutes of the film that introduced us to a cult based on a charismatic female time traveler (or perhaps a charismatic con artist). After the clip, two supposed members of the cult came on stage in a piece of performance art that I don’t think was well received. Finally, writer/director Zal Batmanglij and writer/lead actor Brit Marling came out to expound on the film a little. It is an ultra low-budget independent film that has been shown on the festival circuit to reasonable success. The film will be widely released in late April. I’m not sure I was wholly convinced to seek it out.

Rounding out the movie previews was a screening of the next DC animated film, Superman vs. The Elite, which comes out in June. I will have a full review later; the snapshot is that this is quite good. DC Animation consistently comes up with good to excellent features, something their live-action counterparts do not. They also teased Batman: The Dark Knight Returns with some short clips. It looked awesome. (Rumors are that the story will be split into two parts, which if true is a good sign that it will not be compromised from the graphic novel by Frank Miller.)

Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom (2012)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie, based on “Tower of Babel” by Mark Waid; directed by Lauren Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Snapshot: An exciting adventure reuniting most of the creative talent from the Justice League animated TV series that is almost derailed by major plot holes at the end.

Major spoilers ahead!

The story opens with Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (Tim Daly), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly), and the Flash (Michael Rosenbaum) thwarting a jewel heist by a gang of thieves who seem to have a little more high-tech than expected. It turns out that they were supplied by the immortal Vandal Savage (Phil Morris) as part of his plot to destroy the Justice League and take over the world.

It turns out Savage is focused on the big picture. Little things like Batman’s secret identity don’t interest him (and anyway, he already knows it). Savage uses his “Legion of Doom” to discover and carry out the Dark Knight’s “contingency plans” for stopping any rogue Justice League member. This leads to a second act filled with nonstop action and suspense as the Justice Leaguers are knocked off, one by one by their rivals: Bane (Carlos Alazraqui), Cheetah (Claudia Black), Metallo (Paul Blackthorne), Star Sapphire (Olivia d’Abo), Mirror Master (Alexis Denisof), and Ma’alefa’ak (Carl Lumbly).

The third act is also filled with exciting action as the League regroups and fights to stave off Savage’s ultimate end game: the literal destruction of half the world’s population along with all technology utilizing electricity so that he can become the undisputed ruler of what’s left. Here’s where, for me, the plot goes off the rails. I realize that movies like this have to up the ante, especially with superheroes as powerful as the Justice League, but really, what kind of crazy does a super-villain have to be to think that ruling a decimated Earth would be any way fulfilling?

And the way Savage plans to wreak this havoc is mind-boggling, even for a comic book story. OK, he demonstrated that he has super-advanced technology earlier in the story, so I can kind of give it a pass that he can launch a rocket from the Earth that will crash into the Sun causing massive solar flares that will destroy anything in their path. But come one, it’s the fracking Sun! There’s nothing manmade that could possibly cause the Sun to explode this way.

If this were the only plot hole, I could forgive it. But the bigger plot hole is that the rocket takes only about a minute to reach the Sun. Even at the speed of light, it would take eight minutes, a fact that they repeat several times in relation to how long it will take the solar flares to reach Earth. A rocket would take months, if not years (it took the MESSENGER probe almost four years to arrive at Mercury) to reach the Sun. This could have been easily explained away in the movie if Savage had simply stated that he launched the rocket months ago in preparation. The climax could still have been as exciting, with the heroes attempting to activate the rocket’s fail-safe rather than attempting to cancel its launch.

Nevertheless, Justice League: Doom is well worth seeing. The chemistry between the returning voice actors is fun, as the they have grown into their roles over the years. Bumper Robinson as Cyborg is a welcome addition to the ensemble, and I hope we get to see more of him in future installments. (This movie just reinforces my desire to see a resurrected Justice League TV series.) There are many nice character interactions between the heroes and their villainous counterparts, as well as some pointed humor between Batman and Alfred (“You’re dripping blood on my clean floor.”) There is also some wonderful poignancy in the second act when it looks like our heroes are done for, especially when Green Lantern thinks he’s killed a civilian and momentarily loses his nerve.

Justice League: Doom is an exciting yet bittersweet end to Dwayne McDuffie’s prolific career as a writer for the DC animated universe (he died unexpectedly a year ago). I wish that the live-action movies were even close to the quality of the animated movies.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Graphic Story category, I have compiled a list of works that could be considered.

It is clear that Hugo readers are not avid comic book readers. There is little overlap of the Hugo nominees and any of the comics-related best-of lists and awards. The Hugo voters are going for fanish titles such as Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary, along with obscure titles by fan-favorite writers such as Paul Cornell and Joss Whedon, and ignoring outstanding mainstream titles such as The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, Chew, 20th Century Boys, Return of the Dapper Men, and Irredeemable, to name a few. Yes, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and The Unwritten have been nominated, but there’s so much more good stuff not being recognized.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year. Moreover, the Hugo voters have given the award to Girl Genius three years in a row. To his credit, Phil Foglio announced that he would not accept a nomination this year for Girl Genius. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to convince this year’s Business Meeting to permanently ratify the Graphic Story category. As much of a comics fan as I am, if there is no greater diversity of nominees, I may have to support ending the category. Although the Hugo Award is a popularity contest, it should ideally represent a broad representation of the best of science fiction and fantasy.

The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering. I’ve tried to narrow down my list to titles that I’ve seen favorably reviewed. Nevertheless, I suspect I’ve missed worthy books. Most of the entries on the list are printed. I’m not a connoisseur of web comics, but I know there are some good ones being published. Even so, for a lot of web comics it’s hard to tell where stories start and stop and therefore what is eligible in a calendar year. Check with a site like Top Web Comics for a list of possibilities.

I’ve highlighted a few titles that have appeared on multiple best-of lists or that I have personal knowledge of being excellent. I challenge the Hugo nominators to think carefully about their choices and to not just fill in their ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else.

For your consideration:

Abominable Charles Christopher, Book One by Karl Kerschl

Amulet #4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 4 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch

Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingenue by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jessica Booth, and Ron Lim

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola, et al.

Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin by Grant Morrison, et al.

Batman: Eye of the Beholder by Tony Daniel

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla

The Bean, Vol. 1: Riddles & Shrooms by Travis Hanson

The Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

Blood Work by Kim Harrison, Pedro Maia and Gemma Magno

Brightest Day by Geoff Johns, et al.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 8: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon, Scott Allie, and Georges Jeanty

Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina

Captain Swing, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres

Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá

Chew, Vol. 4: Flambe by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly

Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

Deadpool MAX : Involuntary Armageddon by David Lapham, Kyle Baker, and Shawn Crystal

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 6 by Philip K. Dick and Tony Parker

Echo, Vol. 6: The Last Day by Terry Moore

Fables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

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Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, and Mark Brooks

5 Ronin by Peter Milligan, et al.

Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay

Freeway by Mark Kalesniko

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 27 by Hiromu Arakawa

George R. R. Martin’s Doorways by Stefano Martino and George R. R. Martin

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns by Geoff Johns, et al.

Green Woman by Peter Straub, Michael Easton, and John Bolton

The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson

The Gunslinger – The Battle of Tull by Stephen King, Peter David, and Michael Lark

The Gunslinger – The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Luke Ross, and Richard Isanove

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Harbor Moon by Ryan Colucci, Dikran Ornekian, and Pawel Sambor

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben

I Will Bite You! by Joseph Lambert

Irredeemable, Vol. 7 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

iZombie, Vol. 2: uVampire by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Jericho Season 3 by Alejandro F. Giraldo

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Fool Moon by Chase Conley, Jim Butcher, and Mark Powers

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 2 by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran

Marineman: A Matter of Life & Depth by Ian Churchill

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 by Naoki Urasawa

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, David Mack, and Pascal Alixe

Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Alan Robinson

Pinocchio by Winshluss

RASL: Romance at the Speed of Light by Jeff Smith

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes adapted by Ron Wimberly

7 Billion Needles, Vol. 4 by Nobuaki Tadano

Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman

Superboy, Vol. 1: Smallville Attacks by Jeff Lemire, Pier Gallo, and Marco Rudy

Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

True Blood, Vol. 2: Tainted Love by Joe Corroney

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga, Book 1 by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, and Mark Brooks

The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

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Vampire Academy by Leigh Dragoon and Emma Vieceli

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14, No Way Out by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Vol. 15, We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Vol. 1: The Colossus of Mars by Arvid Nelson and Carlos Rafael

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young

Xombi by John Rozum and Fraser Irving

The New 52: Summary

My overall rating for the New 52: 4 of 5 stars

I think DC’s relaunch was largely successful. Their sales numbers certainly reflect a large influx of new readers, with Month 3 of the reboot still beating Marvel’s sales numbers. I haven’t read individual monthly comics in many years and I was enticed to try all 52 titles. I don’t see myself reading any of them consistently on an ongoing basis—it took me 6-7 weeks to read 52 issues, about 1200 pages, and I don’t have that kind of time to read comics on a regular basis—but I can easily see getting several of these when the trade compilations come out. Moreover, modern comic book writing relies heavily on long story arcs that are often best read in chunks.

I applaud DC for realizing that comic books are a medium, not a genre. Although heavily dominated by superheroes, this new line-up includes supernatural, horror, mystery, science fiction, western, and war stories. I hope that these find eager audiences willing to take a chance on something different.

There were a surprising number of variations on covert paramilitary operations. Men of War, Blackhawks, Suicide Squad, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Stormwatch, and perhaps to a lesser extent Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Justice League Dark, and maybe even one or two others, were formatted almost identically except for the milieu they were in. After a while it became hard to differentiate them all.

It is obvious that DC is catering to an older audience, with lots of gore and sexual titillation throughout the line, not to mention the $2.99 cover price precluding unemployed kids from buying too many. DC is also trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by relying heavily on established continuity to assuage the wrath of long-time fans, yet claiming to be wiping the slate clean for brand new readers. I would rather have 52 really well told stories, even if it means setting aside years of continuity, than try to artificially shoehorn often-contradictory backstories into every title.

DC is also to be lauded for including so many female characters in lead roles. I don’t think Marvel has any solo-character books starring females. DC has Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, (half of) Hawk and Dove, Supergirl, Voodoo, and Wonder Woman. Now, let’s see more female writers and artists to create these stories!

Some people have complained about the perceived sexism in titles like Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and there is certainly a strong case to be made for those criticisms. (Yet, at the same time, there was little or no outcry towards something like I, Vampire’s nearly naked cover art.) What I found most troublesome about some of these titles was the incomprehensible storytelling. These, and many of the other 52, seemed more like Issues #12, or even #50, than #1.

I had fun with the “Where’s Waldo?” hunt for the mysterious hooded figure from Flashpoint #5. There were a few books that took me several tries to find her. Did anyone else note her freakishly long fingers in her appearance in Resurrection Man?

I thought most of the books were good to very good. What were my favorites? All Star Western, Animal Man, Batwoman, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Justice League, Mister Terrific, and Superboy, with guilty pleasures Captain Atom and Red Lanterns. A number of others have the potential to become favorites, depending on how well they continue—for example, Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Demon Knights, and Wonder Woman. I suspect there will be other breakout hits as they settle into their strides—and certainly some of what looks good initially will falter along the way.

There were some real duds, though: Aquaman, Green ArrowRed Hood and the Outlaws, and The Savage Hawkman, coming to mind. But I wouldn’t count these out, either, as time may show improvement.

I’m sure we can expect to see a mega-crossover event next summer as sales begin to flag, to recharge interest, reveal the hooded figure’s identity and purpose, and make some final calibrations on the characters in the new DC universe.

I look forward to enjoying many more tales from the creative folks at DC.

The New 52: Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl

Today, I’ll take a look at the “Superman” group of DC’s New 52.

Action Comics

Like Justice League, this book takes place in the early days of the new DC Universe, before superheroes are widely accepted by the public. Grant Morrison, arguably the best comic book writer today, perhaps ever, has been tasked with the unenviable job of rebooting Superman, one of the world’s most recognizable fictional characters. Morrison starts off showing us that this early version of Superman has not yet come to grips with the immensity of his powers, and is willing to use questionable vigilante methods to bring criminals to justice. I found this to be a fascinating facet to Superman’s personality, because it is so much different from the Boy Scout image we have grown to accept. The issue concludes with an action-packed set piece of a train (with Lois Lane on board, of course) about to go off its tracks. This clichéd sequence harkens back to a simpler time, but I have never been able to believe train cars in this situation wouldn’t just jackknife and derail, causing massive death and destruction. Morrison also introduces us to a forceful take on slimy Lex Luthor, who is already one of the world’s most powerful men. The art by Rags Morales and Rick Bryant is a solid effort, bringing Superman’s physicality to life, but it doesn’t have the charm that Frank Quitely’s art had on Morrison’s All-Star Superman. We should expect to be excited and surprised by Superman’s journey as Morrison progresses forward with this story in the months to come.

Superboy

For those not keeping score at home, this Superboy is not the young Clark Kent of Smallville. This is a relaunch of the Superboy character that arose out of the “Death of Superman” saga twenty years ago. This Superboy is a Superman-human hybrid clone that is being nurtured and studied by a mysterious organization known as Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Writer Scott Lobdell paints Superboy on a blank canvas, starting the story at a point very early in Superboy’s development, and then speeds through a lot of background information while keeping the story interesting. It looks like Lobdell will be exploring how the character learns to perfect his powers as he learns more about his so far unexplained origins. Artists R. B. Silva and Rob Lean give the book a crisp, clean look that is very appealing. I enjoyed the first issue of Superboy very much, and look forward to the story to come.

Supergirl

Supergirl has always been in the shadow of her Kyptonian cousin, Superman. This series doesn’t really look to change that status, but the first issue does foreshadow some possibly interesting teenage angst to propel the story forward. We see Supergirl land on Earth and immediately an unnamed alien protection squad of exoskeleton-wearing soldiers is upon her. Supergirl is obviously disoriented by her sudden landing; the last thing she remembers is being on the way home from school with her friends, and her first instincts are to think it’s all a dream. But as the mechanical men attempt to restrain her, she slowly realizes that she’s on a strange world with a yellow sun. Just as she dispatches her final foe, none other than Superman drops in to presumably set things straight. Artists Mahmud Asrar and Dan Green make Supergirl look good, but the story by Michael Green & Mike Johnson moves very slowly. Green and Johnson come out of TV writing, so may be more used to having longer story arcs. Whatever the case, I hope that they pick up the pace a little and start filling in some of the blank spaces, or else readers aren’t likely to stick around very long.

Superman

Whereas the Superman in Action Comics is a young, inexperienced superhero, the Superman in this title is a much more mature and confident character. It is, however, nothing ground breaking. We see the staff of the Daily Planet go through some turmoil as a Rupert Murdoch type media magnate purchases the paper, while Superman goes through his own turmoil fighting a weird fire alien. A faux newspaper article narrates much of Superman’s action, and the scenes with Lois Lane and her crew are colored with frenetic TV style quick cuts that heighten the tension. Writer George Pérez (who also does the breakdowns) is a better artist than writer, but being able to combine the two skills helps him stuff a lot of story into a small space. Jesús Merino ably renders the finished pencils and inks. The large supporting cast has always strengthened the Superman mythos, and Pérez gives us some tantalizing hints to the new gang. For example, Perry White looks much more like a square-jawed man of action than in many previous incarnations, and Morgan Edge, the producer of the Planet’s affiliated network news division, is now an urban black man. There was also an inexplicable one-page cutaway showing a stirring monster that somehow ties into the new Stormwatch book; it didn’t seem appropriate to have this kind of crossover so early. Superman does nothing to tarnish Superman’s reputation—it is a safe, traditional comic book for all ages.

Comikaze

Comikaze is a new comic-centric convention in Los Angeles. It appears to be making a bid to eventually replicate the multi-media San Diego Comic-Con experience, with something for fans of anime, movies, TV, and gaming. Comikaze was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 5-6, 2011. I attended on Saturday only.

I went in not expecting much. A similarly publicized convention in Pasadena a couple of years ago was a dismal failure. I had purchased tickets through Goldstar, a popular discount ticket broker. The tickets were “free” for a $4.50 handling fee, so I didn’t have much to lose by going.

Fez-o-Rama Booth

The Comikaze web site indicated the dealers’ room would open at 10:00 a.m., but when I arrived shortly before 10 I discovered that the floor was not going to open until 10:30. So I had to wait a bit, which was ok. I had to redeem my Goldstar receipt for a wristband, and that took a few minutes. To give Comikaze credit, they had workers in the crowd giving out wristbands to full-paying preregistrants, enabling people like me to get to the registration table relatively quickly.

Girls and Corpses Magazine Booth

At 10:30 the door opened. Yes, door, singular. The long line slowly snaked in, single file. The cavernous hall was already bustling when I managed to get in. There were a lot of vendors selling a wide variety of products. There were also many tables for artists and celebrities. A large area at the back of the hall

Gaming Area

was reserved for gaming tournaments, so there seemed to be something for everyone. In an unusual setup, there were five panel rooms created by curtaining off sections of the hall.

Having looked at the online schedule ahead of time I knew there was to be a screening of the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new horror movie, The Woman in Black, at 11:00, but none of the panel rooms had it listed on the cards in front of the room entrances. Because there was no overall printed schedule or facilities map, or signs of any sort, I ended up having to ask about four or five people where the screening was

Even the Muppets were there!

before I eventually found it in a meeting room on the third floor of the convention center. I was late, but it didn’t matter since they were still struggling to get the audio-visual equipment working. I waiting until about 11:35 when they announced it would be another 20 minutes to get ready. This was not an auspicious start to the convention!

Performance art?

I spent the next hour and a half walking the dealers’ room, by the end of which I had pretty much seen everything. There were a number of interesting vendors, including a lot of comics, toy, video, and clothing and jewelry dealers.

There were quite a few celebrities in attendance, most charging for their photos and autographs. Stan Lee and his entourage strolled through at one point. Wax figure Morgan Fairchild held court while her handler shielded her from any unauthorized (unpaid) photographs.

Not Ernest Borgnine

Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine apparently didn’t have anything better to do, but looked in amazing shape for a man of 94, certainly better than 85-year-old Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man), who sat looking wrinkled, sad, and lonely. Other famous and not-so-famous stars that I recognized included Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager),

A melange of costumes

Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family). There were many more that I didn’t recognize.

There were lots of costumed attendees. Just like at SDCC, they regularly blocked the aisles posing for photos. It’s just something a congoer gets used to.

Batman Panel

I attended four panels in the afternoon. At 1:00 it was “The World of Batman” with writers Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice) and Kyle Higgins (Batman: Gates of Gotham). They had a good discussion of what makes Batman Batman. Unfortunately, there was a very noisy cast reunion of Nickelodeon’s All That in the next room which tended to drown out what Hurwitz and Higgins said, not to mention that the acoustics to begin with were poor due to the room being a curtained off area in the giant, echoing cement hall.

Titmouse Animation Panel

At 3:00 I trekked back up to the third-floor meeting room for the Titmouse Animation Showcase. Titmouse produces Metalocalypse and other Adult Swim programs. They have taken over production of The Venture Bros., and series creator Jackson Publick was part of the panel. They also previewed Black Dynamite, a new series set to début next summer.

Back down to the hall for a panel at 4:00 called “From Robots to Monsters: Japan is the Original King.”  Moderator Jessica Tseang (ComiCast) did an excellent job of interviewing Tom Franck (North America’s largest Japanese robot collector) and Mike Costa (Transformers).

DC Panel

The final panel I attended, at 5:00, was “DC Comics New 52 Q&A” with a full table of DC writers and artists, including J. T. Krul (Captain Atom), Eric Wallace (Mr. Terrific), Phillip Tan (The Savage Hawkman), Scott Lobdell (Red Hood and the Outlaws), Brian Buccetello (The Flash), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice), Mike Costa (Blackhawks), and two or three others I don’t remember offhand. They all seemed genuinely excited about DC’s recent reboot and promised great things to come.

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of Comikaze. Considering that Comikaze was just one week after the Long Beach Comic-Con, the attendance was remarkably high. The organizers have shown that a successful large media convention can be held in Los Angeles. There were some things that need to be improved for next time. Not everyone has a smart phone, so they need to have better schedules and maps available for attendees (and the schedule needs to be cross-referenced by participants). Crowd control was generally pretty good, but flow into and out of the hall and the rooms were sometimes a problem. They definitely need to hold panels in the upstairs meeting rooms and not the makeshift curtained rooms. The L.A. Convention Center is not as well situated as the San Diego Convention Center, i.e., there are not nearly as many nearby hotels and restaurants. For Comikaze to grow to SDCC size, they will have to overcome those limitations, but it should be eventually possible.

For another look at Comikaze, check out this long and detailed report from The Fangirl Files.

The New 52: Justice League and Green Arrow

The “Justice League” group includes eleven of the major superhero titles. Today, I’ll look at two of them.

Justice League

Justice League (notably, not Justice League of America) is the flagship title of the New 52. It was the first of the new #1s to be released, and DC’s two biggest powerhouses, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, created it. The story begins five years before the events of the other DC books. It is a time when superheroes are just beginning to become widely known to the public, and not necessarily in a good way. It is clear, however, that at least some of the superheroes have been covertly operating for some unspecified, but significant, amount of time. From the promotional materials the Justice League lineup will ultimately include the DC heavy hitters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and … Cyborg. Cyborg? Apparently, someone at DC felt that Cyborg’s popularity from the Teen Titans animated TV series, combined with his racial minority status, would be a good fit among these icons. Cyborg also played a major role in Flashpoint, as the only superhero to be trusted by the U.S. government. Justice League #1 begins with Batman chasing down what turns out to be a transforming alien that is wreaking havoc on Gotham City. Green Lantern Hal Jordan arrives to lend a hand, having been alerted to the crisis as an extraterrestrial threat. Batman is mistrustful of the arrogant Lantern, but eventually they combine forces to vanquish the monster as it screams, “For Darkseid!” Neither understands this cry; Green Lantern wonders, “Dark Side? What is that? A band?” Green Lantern seems to be ignorant about a lot of things. At one point he realizes that Batman is “just some guy in a bat costume.” The two decide to go see what Superman, the only known alien on Earth, knows about the attack. Batman is wary, however, stating that Superman is dangerous. When they get to Metropolis, though, Green Lantern completely ignores the evidence of a recent, titanic fight and attempts to restrain Superman. Superman knocks Green Lantern across the city; to be continued….

We also get four pages of pre-Cyborg Vic Stone as a high school football star. And watching him play? The mysterious hooded figure from Flashpoint (who makes a cameo in every issue of the New 52).

Thus, we get some clues as to what the Hood was referring to in her cryptic message in Flashpoint #5. It appears that Darkseid will be the villain who will bring the superheroes together. Seems reasonable to me. What role the Hood will take remains to be seen, but I’ll bet she is more than just an observer.

Johns and Lee have created a story and characters that are engaging and make me want to read more. It looks to be a perfect entryway into the new DC universe. This is a fitting start to the New 52.

Green Arrow

Green Arrow has gone through about as many concept changes as any superhero in DC’s stable. He began as a swashbuckling version of Batman, with trick arrows instead of a utility belt. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams transformed him into a socially conscious do-gooder in the 1970s with the classic team-up with Green Lantern. In the 1980s Mike Grell took Green Arrow back to his roots, making him a sort of urban manhunter.

What will writer J. T. Krul and artists Dan Jurgens and George Pèrez do with Green Arrow? Based on the first issue, it’s basically back to Batman-lite: Oliver Queen, billionaire owner of a high-tech multi-industry company, uses key company resources and personnel to help him fight crime while simultaneously running the business via conference calling. As Green Arrow, he uses his trick arrows and superior martial arts to single-handedly bring down the bad guys. But he has a code to not use lethal force. He rationalizes his vigilante actions because, “I can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing. I won’t. The last time I did, I watched people die.” It will be interesting to see this back-story unfold. I suspect that Green Arrow will eventually go from a young, idealistic crime fighter to the more cynical version of recent years.

Green Arrow is not a title that will likely win any awards, but it’s a solid superhero story, with lots of action, some interesting super-villains, and a bit of character development. Nothing too daring, and accessible to a new reader. The artwork, by two dependable veterans, is well laid out and visually interesting.

The New 52: Overview

Reboots in the comic book world are nothing new and really nothing rare. When DC announced they were going to reboot their entire universe and renumber every title at #1, it caused a lot of controversy within the comics community. I think the initial reaction was shock, followed by anger. You would have thought by some people’s comments that their grandmother had just been murdered. But as details were slowly released by DC, the fans calmed down and most took a wait and see attitude.

Now that all 52 #1s have been released, we can evaluate the new DC universe. Certainly, one of DC’s goals was achieved. Sales of the New 52 exceeded almost everyone’s predictions, with most of the titles going back for second and third printings.

The continuity of the New 52 began with Flashpoint #5. As the Flash (Barry Allen) raced to restore the timestream, a mysterious cloaked figure ominously intoned, “… the history of heroes was shattered into three long ago. Splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival. You must all stand together. The timelines must become one again. You can help me fix that, Barry Allen, but at a cost.” It’s not explicitly stated, but by looking at the illustrations surrounding the figure we can infer that the three timelines are the DC, Wildstorm, and presumably Milestone imprints that DC owns, although the Milestone universe had previously been integrated into the main DC universe. By doing this, DC was able to retain or discard whatever previous continuity they wanted. In essence, they created what I refer to as Earth-N, an alternate timeline that is similar, but noticeably different from any previous incarnation. This enables DC to rightfully claim that every previous story still matters, they’re just in a different timeline.

The reference to “their impending arrival” is not at all explained. Most likely, it refers to some new or established villain that will threaten the combined might of the DC superheroes. “At a cost” is also not explained, but may refer to the loss of certain continuity from the old timeline to Earth-N.

In the same splash page we see some of the new costume and character designs for Earth-N. Perhaps the most notable difference is that Superman no longer wears his red underpants on the outside. All of the characters appear younger and have some slight costume changes.

DC divided the New 52 into groups. “Justice League” includes eleven of the major superhero titles, except Batman and Superman, who each have their own groups. There are four books in the “Superman” group and eleven in the “Batman” group. The “Green Lantern” group contains four titles. A group called “The Dark” consists of seven books dealing with horror themes. This is in contrast to “The Edge” group that has nine titles of various supernatural and military characters. Finally, the “Young Justice” group comprises six books featuring teenage superheroes.

I’ll take a closer look at individual titles of the New 52 in future posts.

Superman/Doomsday

Superman/Doomsday (2007)
Written by Duane Capizzi and Bruce Timm, based on The Death of Superman (1992) by Dan Jurgens, et al.; directed by Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm, and Brandon Vietti

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Superman/Doomsday rightfully earns a PG-13 rating for some very intense violence. Although impossible to condense the epic comic book saga into about 80 minutes, the movie captures the essence of the comic book series. The story moves along briskly in the first and third acts, with lots of death and destruction. The second act looks poignantly at a world without Superman. The scene between Lois Lane and Martha Kent brought a tear to my eye. The animation is of high quality. The characters are drawn somewhat differently than in previous incarnations. The way they drew the character cheekbones was a bit distracting at first, but I soon got used to it. Otherwise, the characters and the animation were quite nicely done. Overall, I enjoyed Superman/Doomsday a lot.