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DC Comics: All the Single Ladies

September 12th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Recently, DC Comics’s problems have reached sitcom levels in terms of errors and misunderstanding. The most interesting of these recent incidents is easily the Batwoman situation. J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman had announced their leave of Batwoman at #26 due to the same 11th hour editorial changes that have annoyed countless other creators into skipping town on DC, but claimed the straw that broke the camel’s back was that they could allow Batwoman to get engaged to her girlfriend, but they couldn’t get married. That created a backlash at DC for what appeared to be an anti-gay marriage stance.

While it made for some good schadenfreude, it didn’t really seem to make sense. DC heavily hyped up Batwoman’s debut for being a crime-fighting lesbian. There’s supporting character in the pages of Vibe who’s both gay and married. Hell, Marvel and Archie Comics have both made a killing off doing a gay marriage issue. Then what’s the problem?

The truth, as it turns out, is much stranger. In a twist on the old line, “I’m not racist! I just hate everyone equally,” DC Comics appears to simply hate marriage, whether it be straight or gay.

At first it just seemed like a stealth coincidence. With the New 52 reboot, it made sense that Clark Kent would no longer be married to Lois Lane and that Barry Allen would no longer be married to Iris West. They’ve been given the chance to rebuild towards those stories and retell them with a modern touch. Meanwhile, Wally West is no longer married to Linda because he simply doesn’t exist. But there are other married couples in the New 52, right? Aquaman and Mera are together and Animal Man has two kids. No, DC can’t be against marriage to the point of scorched earth, right?

As it turns out, this is what Dan Didio had to say at Baltimore Comic-Con the other day. “Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests. That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace – oops shouldn’t have said that – Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.”

Which is kind of a weird thing to say, since Tim Drake was able to make “having a family” work for fifteen years. Then they fixed that and made him just as insufferable as Batman around the time when even DC realized that Batman was too insufferable and needed to be fixed.

It also seems to ignore police officers and firemen and other real life heroes, but… yeah.

So DC is only against the Batman-related characters being married, right? Except word’s been going around that Aquaman and Mera aren’t officially married. Sure, she’s his “queen” and they live together, but Johns has made sure not to mention that they’re husband and wife. It’s said that this will be explained in a future issue.

Well, at least we have Animal Man and Ellen Baker, right? Except they’re in the middle of a messy separation based on the death of their son Cliff. This whole part becomes really suspect based on the background. Lemire’s Animal Man started off feeling like a strong successor to Grant Morrison’s defining run and even made direct references to it early on. The latter part of Morrison’s run had a point that killing loved ones and generally crapping on the heroes for the point of drama is kind of a stupid thing to do.

How strange that years later, Morrison and Animal Man would both play the “kill the hero’s son” card at the same time. You have to wonder, though. Animal Man plays up the idea that heroes shouldn’t be married because their family will pay for it (even though unbeknownst to the main cast, it’s not Buddy’s fault, but because of his daughter’s fate as champion of the Red. Long story) and it’s being pulled towards Buddy being on his own. You have to wonder how much of that decision is based on editorial interference.

The comparison to Marvel is obvious. After all, they made huge waves with their Spider-Man marriage controversy. The One More Day incident is something I still don’t agree with, but I understand. Here’s the thing, though. That’s just one character. Yes, there are plenty of marriages that don’t work in Marvel, but right now, there’s still such pairings as Reed Richards and Sue Storm, Black Bolt and Medusa, Northstar and Kyle and Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Hell, I’m pretty sure Absorbing Man and Titania are still together.

While the editorial fuckery is a major problem with DC, I think one of the other major problems is the company-wide edicts (such as my new favorite, “Batman never sits. EVER.”). Despite Marvel’s problems, they’re pretty good about giving you variety. For every gritty Avengers Arena there’s something fun like Superior Foes of Spider-Man. You have options.

DC isn’t giving much in terms of options these days and this Villains Month bullshit epitomizes it. Everything is dark and everyone is horribly dying. They had something going with Blue Beetle, but then they canceled it, brought it back and retold it as something needlessly darker and it got canceled twice as fast. They’re trying to push Harley Quinn as a madcap romp, yet they just released a comic of her murdering legions of innocent children for the hell of it. Because THAT’S somebody I want to cheer for and laugh with.

In the end, I think about a scene from 52. Tim Drake, trying to get over how insufferable DC made him, was training with some monks and one asked him a riddle. Something like, “A duck is sitting inside a glass bottle. How did it get there?” After thinking about it, Tim realized it was because the monk telling the riddle put it there. The duck was fictional, just like everyone in the DC universe. You know why marriages don’t work for superheroes, DC? Because YOU say they don’t. The actual creative team thought it was a good idea and could work, but what do they know?

They know to look for work elsewhere, I suppose.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 11

November 15th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

The New DC experiment continues with the second week of the third month. As it is right now, I’m reading 32 of their titles. Let’s see what I’m left holding onto after another go.

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason is up first. I’m loving the relationship between Alfred and Damian. Even when you take away Alfred being slick with his chess and tracker skills, you get this feeling that he’s stealth-fathering Damian much in the same way he did Bruce. Only here, we’re able to see it happen more clearly. The villain has yet to do anything for me, but I enjoy the rift of disagreement he brings to Bruce and Damian. Damian feels underappreciated and underestimated, when Bruce is genuinely afraid for his wellbeing. The idea of Batman being so afraid for Robin hasn’t really been done all that much since he was babying Tim based on the death of Jason. There’s a strong desperation in his actions and a question of which Wayne is right in this situation.

Meanwhile, Gleason’s art is looking fine. I feel this comic is getting stronger by the issue. Definite stick.

Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman continues to be an entertaining pile of barely-connected scenes featuring a bevy of subplots. I don’t care because I have no trouble following it and the art is fucking nice. The best part of it all is how all these different subplots are coming together more and more and the varying art styles are starting to interact. The realistic ghost, the well-shaded Batwoman, the Mike Allred-style Kate Kane, the noirish Chase, and almost comic strip-like Bette. A cool touch I really like is how the art starts to change in the characters. Now that Bette is Flamebird out of spite for Batwoman, she is shown to be in the same shaded and detailed style that Batwoman had before losing her mojo mid-issue. I mean, just look at the final page.

I barely even notice the “to be continued” and feel a groan come on when I turn to the next page. I’m in for the next go. Stick.

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This Week in Panels: Week 108

October 16th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s Sunday, New York Comic Con is over and I am completely exhausted. Wait, shit. It’s Sunday, which means I have to go home to doing a ThWiP update? Ughhhhhhh… All right, let’s get to it.

I’m joined by David Brothers, Was Taters and brand new contributor Solenna. Space Jawa is currently on location in Turkey, filming the next Agent Cody Banks installment. I wish him well.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

Batman and Robin #2
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 3

September 20th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

We’re halfway into the New 52’s debuting month… sort of. Pretending the first week didn’t happen. You know what I mean.

Last week I dropped three books and put a handful on probation. How does this week stack up? Going in alphabetical order again, it’s pretty top-heavy. Bear with me because it’s not as entirely positive as the first half is going to make it look.

To start, it’s Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. I already hate the villain in this story (in the good way I’m supposed to hate a villain) for taking out the totally kickass design for Russian Batman. The whole idea of Batman trying to finally get past the death of his parents so he can look back at them fondly instead of “MY PARENTS ARE DEAAAAD!” is not only a good selling point for me, but follows up on my favorite moment from Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman and Robin where Batman looks at a destroyed portrait of his parents, then immediately tells Damian that he’s proud of him for making the right decisions.

Personally, I loved Dick Grayson as Batman and part of it was his relationship with Damian. They had a great dynamic of Damian being a jackass and Dick being cool about it because it’s like working with a younger Bruce. That adds to the story here as there seems to be an underlying feeling that Damian is a child whose real father just got custody when he was really starting to love his step-dad even more. I’m interested in the concept of the one Robin who doesn’t roll with the punches on a regular basis and instead will outright talk back without a smirk. Bruce goes from having sidekicks who become like his strained sons to having a son who has become a strained sidekick. Insubordination is neat on its own, but having it come from a younger version of the guy giving the orders moves it up a notch. I’m sticking.

Even better is Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. This one is all over the place, but all of those places hold my attention. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite never getting around to finishing Elegy (I’ll get to it!), I was able to follow it easily. Everything except the weird possibility that Montoya might be dead. The real talent in JHW3’s work is how different each scene looks. It’s almost hard to understand how Kate and Batwoman are one in the same based on how they’re portrayed. Sure, their basic physical descriptions match up, but Kate is drawn in scenes that show her almost down to earth while Batwoman is this sleek apparition of a figure that can’t exist in that same reality.

It’s like watching Jim Carrey transform into a CGI being. I’m going to stick with this one too.

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Hot Wondercon News

April 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Just so you know, Comics Alliance is the place to go for hot off the presses Wondercon news. Two bits of note for Friday:

-Greg Rucka is done at DC Comics and his Batwoman? Well, y’all are gonna be waiting a while. I have more details in the link.

-Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is back on track. It hits again in February 2011 under the name Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, a six-issue miniseries. I can’t even front, that news is super exciting. I can’t wait to see more of Miller/Lee’s take of the Dark Knight universe. Grant Morrison has faltered for me, due in part to the on and off art, and Dini is writing the kind of comic book you use to break up weed on. Miller/Lee’s ASBAR was like a chilled shot of vodka– something bracing and surprising, and something that’ll rock your world when you least expect it.

More on that later, though. Stay tuned, true believer :)

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Thought-provoking Linkblogging

November 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

-Brendan McCarthy Spider-Man. Click or else.

-I have a hate relationship with horror movies, but this essay by Lauren Davis over on io9 about what makes great horror is excellent.

I have to confess, it’s very hard for me to watch horror movies. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional scare, and it’s not that I’m worried about ghosts and monsters following home (although I will confess to a mild fear of zombies). No, it’s just that when the body count starts rising, I start feeling, well, sad. I don’t come out of the theater pumping with adrenaline; I’m too distracted thinking about the people who died and the loved ones they’ve left behind.

Absolutely a must-read.

-You know what’s more exciting than Marvel joining Disney or whatever it was that happened to DC? The Comics Journal reorganizing. Good interview at CBR:

Groth: I see this is an opportunity to create a true web version of “The Comics Journal,” to in effect combine the virtues of both the web and print as I understand them, which is to say, a single “place” where readers can come and expect a consistently intelligent, idiosyncratic, combative, and occasionally clashing conversation about comics and cartooning. Over the past few years I’ve noticed smarter critical commentary on the Net, but it’s scattered all over the place, buried in the usual mountain of frivolous, tepid, dimwitted, unreadable fanboy drivel. There’s no single website you can visit and anticipate a range of interesting sensibilities on an equal footing, so one of my goals is to distill the best criticism and journalism we can into a single site.

I’ve never actually read an issue of TCJ, though I’ve kinda always meant to. I expect to be alternately infuriated at and elated with the content they come up with. Don’t let me down, guys! (Also if you could make past issues, like TCJ 298 for example, available as PDFs for people who don’t really have room in their tiny San Francisco apartments, that’d be great. Muchas smooches.)

-Savage Critic doubleheader! Jog goes in to great effect on the art in the Greg Rucka/JH Williams III Detective Comics (and JHW3 is the coolest initials in comics since edex), and David Uzumeri drops some bombs on the writing.

My own feelings on ‘Tec are complicated. I like the art more than the story, which feels a little pat, so I don’t buy it monthly. However, once the hardcover drops? Ooowhee. I’ll be on Amazon like a shot.

-Tucker Stone looks at comics criticism and kicks some knowledge:

Comics doesn’t have Tastemakers, maybe they did once, but that time is gone. It’s always been a fractured landscape anyway–initial chunks of comics criticism doled out in fanzines or fan clubs, with the occasional academic polemic turned out for audiences in the low hundreds–and the Internet was able to finish the job of fracturing quicker than it’s been able to on music and film. We all do it, you, me, the guy at the store–reading only those who agree with us up until they say something we don’t like, we burn bridges, blog ourselves, trusting no one. After all, That Guy likes Guggenheim’s Blade series–what’s he know? That Girl’s favorite comic last week was some manga about dating–all the smart kids know it was the GI Joe/Cobra Special!

His point about controlling the critique that exists is a good’un.

-Keeping it in the family, Nina Stone has a beautiful slash brutal takedown of Gotham City Sirens.

Mr. Gag Reflex is apparently not over being dissed by Joker, and so the plot is about him taking his breakup feelings out on Harlequin, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend. I don’t know how this completely relates to the issue before, but maybe it means that the Joker and Harlequin aren’t actually over. To be honest, I don’t really care if I ever find out. It took too many pages of overwhelming art to tell this story. Let me explain.

Really, it’s good. Click thru.

-The Funnybook Babylonians want you to call in and leave obscene messages listener mail. Ask question, share an anecdote, and they might just play it on the show. Tell them I sent you.

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Fourcast! 14: The Girlcast

August 31st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

14-notes

(yeah, i don’t even know. we talk about girls and women and things in an extra-special almost-hour long show this time around. save me from myself by subscribing on itunes or straight up RSS.

apologies to jack kirby.)

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Jog on Batwoman

June 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

As usual, Jog did it better than I was going to:

Almost every ‘superhero’ page in this comic is like that, often crashing across double spreads for maximum exhibitionism. It’s not enough for Batwoman to take on a gang of villains; inset panels must transform into red-tinted lightning bolts raining from the sky. Perversely, it’s not a quick read at all, since these vainglorious layout do everything to grab your attention as soon as you turn the page and force you to linger on their contours, even as, say, a panel of Batwoman getting into costume is shaped as an arrow, guiding you to the next image in a way that draws screaming attention to the obvious act of reading in sequence.

I may have some thoughts later, but I enjoyed Batwoman’s first issue.

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Batwoman: Greg Rucka x IGN

June 12th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

IGN interviewed Greg Rucka about the upcoming Batwoman feature in Detective Comics. There are a couple of things I wanted to pull out and call attention to.

You know, nobody wants to read, and we certainly didn’t want to write an after school special. But as you’ll see in the origin, there is a moment when she has to pay a huge price for the fact that she is gay. She has to sacrifice something of incredible value to her just to be true to herself.

Ten bucks says that she falls victim to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The concept art mentions a military background, and Rucka emphasizes that she isn’t Batwoman for the same reasons as Batman. Say if she were driven to serve, and it was something she truly believed in, and she was bounced out of the military? She gets back to Gotham, does the alcoholic thing for a while, and suits up, because she’s going to help people one way or another. Sound plausible?

But she is the first mainstream superhero who starts out of the box gay. And arguably she’s going to be the most prominent gay superhero.

What definition of mainstream is Rucka using here? There were a few characters in X-Statix a few years ago, and fifteen years ago we had what’s probably the best gay couple in comics– Donner & Blitzen, from Milestone’s Shadow Cabinet and Heroes.

Milestone isn’t obscure– it was published in cooperation with DC Comics, is fondly remembered by many, and sales don’t appear to have been too bad up until it closed its doors. What’s up with that?

As an aside– I don’t know if you noticed this, but IGN managed to misspell Renee Montoya’s name throughout the interview. Good going, guys. Way to, I don’t know, keep up the high standards.

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Batwoman Confirmed

June 15th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

The “Will they? Won’t they?” over Batwoman is basically over. Todd Klein (accidentally?) confirmed it on his revamped Current Projects page.

Rucka on words, JH Williams III on art, Todd Klein on letters.

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