“Trying to guard the fortress of a king they’ve never seen or met”

April 14th, 2012 Posted by david brothers


“I’m happy to say that every single person sitting on this stage right now was at the top of the wish list,” he continued, saying he had “complete faith” in executing the series. DiDio also said he expected “more of a negative reaction” to the initial announcement. “What happened was incredible. Everyone I talked to was excited about it,” saying “all the concerns went away” when people heard about the creative talent.

After calling up a “mildly skeptical” fan to meet with Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne, Wayne began showing the fan some material shown at the Diamond Retailer Summit.

After calling up a “mildly skeptical” fan to meet with Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne, Wayne began showing the fan some material shown at the Diamond Retailer Summit.

“It tells it from his early childhood and becoming the Owl, his partnership with Rorschach and how that went badly,” said Straczynski, who specifically referenced the moment in “Watchmen” where the Silk Spectre found a signed picture of the Twilight Lady.

For “Minutemen,” DiDio said he felt Darwyn Cooke was the best choice for the book before Joe Kubert made a surprise appearance as a late addition to the panel.

Straczynski, characterized working with the Kuberts as “extraordinary.” “The work has just been phenomenal,” he said. “It’s so tight, you see such emotion in the characters, it’s just an awful lot of fun. What tickles me enormously is I get to see everyone else’s stuff and you guys have no idea what’s coming at you.”

The mildly skeptical fan was brought onto the stage after Wayne’s mini-presentation and said, “My skepticism has been put to rest and the artwork is beautiful.”

Good news, y’all. All of your concerns about the dubious business practices of DC Comics and how they basically robbed Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons of the rights to Watchmen have been resolved! DC found a paid shill to sit in the audience and pretend to be skeptical, all so that they could put on a song and dance to show us that the art looks nice!

Let me be the first to say WHEW! I’m glad that they managed to get the people at the top of their list, too, since Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely all turned them down. That’s how you know they’re being truthful: there’s no hype, just hard-hitting facts. Funnybook Babylonian Chris Eckert has more on DC’s effective and inspiring marketing scheme here, and a hint for what JMS’s book might be like!

Our worries have been all for naught, so please rest assured that the art looks nice, and therefore the work is legally and morally correct! I don’t know about you, but I’m sure glad that this was resolved with a minimum of bloodshed and mealy-mouthed, spineless justificatiowhoops, hang on, I’m getting another transmission…

Straczynski addressed the online criticism of Alan Moore and said he got it on an emotional level. “Alan Moore is a genius. No question,” said Straczynski. “On the other hand, he’s been using characters like the Invisible Man, Peter Pan, Jekyl and Hyde in what one fan basically called fan fiction — in ways their original creators probably wouldn’t have approved of. … You stand on a slippery slope when you use the moral high ground.” “Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal and Shuster, worse was a lot of people.” The writer went on to credit Dan DiDio for pushing the project through, despite the fact that most would not touch it.

He’s right! You know he’s right. Just admit he’s right. JMS has said this before, but since Alan Moore sometimes uses characters created by people who got to enjoy the money, fame, and recognition of the full lifespan of those characters before they died and the characters lapsed into public domain and therefore belong to the culture at large, enriching all of us, Moore is a hypocrite! Worse than that, he’s the most odious type of hypocrite! A fanfic hypocrite! I mean, what kind of writer works on things he didn’t invent himself? Slip and fall down your slippery slope, Alan, and take your moral high ground (how do I type with a whiny baby voice? is there an html tag for that?) with you.

I mean, who does he think he is? Have you seen this amazing moral high ground that he apparently has claimed? “Hey fellas, I got screwed over, and have been regularly screwed over the past dozen or so years by DC pulping my comics, interfering with my work, and hassling my friends. Please don’t help them screw me even more. I would like it very much if they would stop screwing me so that I can go back to smoking weed and writing books and hanging out with my wife instead of answering interminable interview questions about things that I’d like to put behind me.”

The nerve of this guy. All of us sign bad contracts, Alan. Siegel and Shuster and Kirby and Gerber and JMS, the creator of much-beloved space ships and lasers show Babylon 5 and dude famous for walking off comics because he gets bored or writes bad comics or something, got screwed, Alan. Do you think you’re better than us, Alan? Do you think you don’t deserve to be screwed like the rest of us, Alan? Huh? Do you? Are you saying that you deserve to be treated better than Jack “King” Kirby? Is that it?

Whatta prick.

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You Better Be Prepared To Finish What You Start (JMS Wasn’t)

November 11th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

“Tune your ear to the frequency of despair, and cross reference by the longitude and latitude of a heart in agony.


Sometimes the newscycle doesn’t go quite how you expected. Wednesday was one of those days. DC announced a big new push for digital comics, which was clearly meant to open the news day and gain a certain amount of buzz, around 9 a.m. PST. Another post went up a few hours later about J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis’s sequel to the smash hit Superman: Earth One. Buried deep in the post was the news that Straczynski is quitting his position as writer of Superman and Wonder Woman, two major flagship DC titles where he launched major stories to much mainstream fanfare. Instead, Chris Roberson will now be writing Superman with issue 707 and Phil Hester is stepping in to script Wonder Woman as of issue 605. JMS will be working on a sequel to Superman: Earth One.

C’mon, son. Who you fooling? How dumb are we supposed to be?

It’s not hard to tell that this a bait and switch. Why hide the actual news to the point where you’re announcing something entirely different and then slip it in at the end? Why bring the Superman: Earth One announcement into it, especially when it isn’t an announcement at all? The release from DC says “It’s too early to talk art, story or release date,” which essentially says nothing, especially since the Earth One graphic novels were already announced as a series of books last year.

Superman: Earth One is a smash hit, and God bless Straczynski and Shane Davis both for getting that book out there to the masses. I even buy the idea that the sequel was fast-tracked due to the success of the first volume. What I don’t buy is the rationale put forth in the press release that Straczynski is just getting a bit busy, so he’s gonna let a couple of up and comers get their shot at the limelight while he works on the next Superman book to sell a kajillion copies.

When you look at Straczynski’s history of late comics, the delays and art troubles on his current comics, his comments regarding how far behind schedule he ended up, the timeline of when the books were announced and when they shipped, and perhaps most tellingly, his wish to take a one to five year sabbatical from monthly comics, there’s a lot more going on than JMS “getting busy” and putting someone else on.

His runs on Superman and Wonder Woman were announced in March 2010 and scheduled for July, on top of a run on The Brave & The Bold that began in Fall 2009 and Superman: Earth One, which had been announced in December 2009. That’s quite a workload for any one writer. Something had to give, and the first thing was The Brave & The Bold. Issue 36 was scheduled to ship in August 2010, but never appeared on store shelves. Its absence was not particularly notable at the time, considering that Superman 701 and Wonder Woman 601 shipped in July to great fanfare, but in hindsight, it was the first hint that something had gone wrong with Straczynski’s time at DC Comics.

Then Superman 703 shipped a month late. And on top of that, when Superman 704 arrived it wasn’t by Straczynski at all, but an unsolicited fill-in story scripted by G. Willow Wilson and Leandro Oliveira, which was announced on September 17 and rushed to stores in October. The artist lineup also hinted at more scheduling issues, as Wonder Woman artist Don Kramer ended up with a bit of pencilling help from Eduardo Pansica and Allan Goldman for his second, third, and fourth issues, despite being a typically timely artist. Having a mixture of artists in a typical comic is fairly rare; it usually means something gone wrong with the scheduling, and suggests that the scripts were late and Kramer had no chance of getting up to speed.

This supposition is bolstered by explanations Straczynski gave in a Robot 6 comments thread in September, shortly before the Wilson fill-in was announced. He mentioned being too sick to write for two months this year, covering San Diego Comic-con 2010 and Fan Expo in Canada. That means the two months were July and August. He admits to falling behind, causing the lateness of Superman 703, and expresses a plan to be “2 full issues ahead by NYCC” in October. It’s fair to assume that the fill-in creative team was solicited for Superman 704 due to his lateness and to give him time to get ahead again. If you put the puzzle pieces together, it appears that Straczynski’s runs were both behind schedule from the outset, and his sickness exacerbated the lateness.

This may seem unfair to Straczynski, and losing work due to sickness is a truly unavoidable and tragic situation, but that’s just part of the story. Longtime followers of Straczynski know that he has a history of being late or outright not finishing series that he’s started. His run on Squadron Supreme ended on a cliffhanger with its seventh issue. His run on Thor shipped 12 issues in its first 18 months and a total of 17 issues over the course of 28 months. Thor, of course, was solicited and advertised as an ongoing monthly comic. His much-hyped Thor Giant-Size Finale was twenty-three pages long, one page longer than your average monthly comic, which makes it definitely not “giant size.” Considering the events in the story, it wasn’t a finale, either.

Finally, Straczynski stopped writing the The Twelve on its eighth issue of a 12-issue run, leaving artist Chris Weston high and dry. Around once a year since he left the series, Straczynski insists that the series will be done soon, or “come hell or high water,” with the clear implication that Weston is at fault for the lateness of the series. Weston, on the other hand, has written a one-shot prequel to The Twelve and helped craft the visual style of the (pretty good!) Denzel Washington film The Book of Eli while waiting on scripts from Straczynski. Straczynski recently took to the press again to talk slick about his collaborator in public, prompting Weston to remark that The Twelve WILL be finished, apparently.”

What we have here is a pattern of Straczynski beginning projects and wandering off once he gets bored. He’s completed several projects, to be fair, but aside from Amazing Spider-Man, many of his major works (Midnight Nation, Rising Stars, Fantastic Four, Squadron Supreme, Thor) have been punctuated by lateness or simply not being finished.

JMS and DC both prioritized Superman: Earth One over Superman and Wonder Woman’s ongoing series due to the fact that Straczynski fell behind on his ongoing series to the point where maintaining his position became untenable. The reality is that JMS was (again, judging from available evidence) heinously late with his scripts and had already passed the point where the very high profile relaunches of Superman and Wonder Woman were either going to be creatively compromised by the presence of rushed art and scripts or slip from the schedule entirely. These are two launches that got enormous news coverage outside of the comics journalism bubble and managed to galvanize both the comics-reading audience and people who don’t read comics into having opinions about the stories. They are big, people care about them, and they matter in a certain way that a lot of comics stories do not. Something had to be done.

Comics fans aren’t stupid. We know about late comics, we know that sometimes health gets in the way, and we know when someone’s trying to pull one over on us. The problem isn’t JMS being late, sick, or needing help getting his stories done. The problem is the way that this news was announced, which attempted to scrub clearly obvious facts from history in favor of a fairy tale that makes everyone involved look pristine. A little spin is fine, and to be expected. Spinning to this extent, however, is absurd and borderline insulting.

When Chris Claremont got sick and couldn’t complete his work on Exiles and New Excalibur, Marvel straight up said so and brought in writers to tell stories until he could come back. They didn’t try to bait and switch their audience. They kept it honest: this is going to kill the schedule, but rather than compromise our quality and schedule, we’re going to bring in these other guys. The original writer will be back as soon as he’s well again. That’s the sensible choice.

Doing it DC’s way taints the entire story. The response to JMS surrendering his series has been overwhelmingly negative, due in part to the abysmal quality of his Superman work. Fans, journalists, and pros have snarked about his reasons for leaving. Instead of the news being Chris Roberson and Phil Hester getting a shot at the big time, the news is “JMS Quits Series Again, Some Guys Are Gonna Wrap Up His Work, News at 11.”

That’s awful. Roberson and Hester are talented guys and more than deserve their time in the sun. They don’t deserve to have their announcement overshadowed by JMS being up to his old tricks again. Now they’re sandbagged with not only cleaning up his mess, but also dealing with whatever ill will this press is going to generate.

The purpose of PR is to sell comics and to present a certain face for the company. The face you see here is one that’s okay with being intentionally misleading in a really crap way to its fans. It’s not a lie, exactly, but it’s spinning so fast it’d make a politicians head spin. This is a textbook example of what not to do.

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Improving Superman #701

July 16th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

These days, Superman is strolling through the country, acting like a smarmy douche to most people he comes across. I think it has something to do with how people slip in the shower and Superman’s not there to help them because he’s too busy making sure monsters from the planet Apokalips aren’t enslaving all existence. You know, minor, self-serving stuff like that. So when a random citizen asks him about why he’s essentially focusing on saving people from slipping in the shower and letting the cosmic threats go unchecked, he quotes Henry David Thoreau for the sake of saying, “Because I’m Superman. You go deal with Doomsday, Poindexter.”

Not good enough, I say.

“What’s that mean? Hey! I asked you a question! What does that mean?”

That guy’s lucky, though. Imagine if he tried the same badgering on the Plutonian.


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The Sun Will Come Out. Tomorrow.

March 13th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

To wedge myself out of the pit of mild crankiness I’ve been in regarding comics, I have started looking ahead to things that I look forward to.

Thank you, The Brave and the Bold, for seemingly being an impossible title to bog down in misery, no matter what medium you are in.  Here we have a female team-up book, a happy-seeming story, and complete indifference to current continuity.  It has everything I’m looking for in a book.

Moreover, it has Barbara Gordon as  part of it all.  This is the kicker for me.  She’s a sentimental favorite, and while I think her role as Oracle is great character development, I can’t get over the fun she had as Batgirl.  I’m always willing to see more of that.  This and Wonder-Con, another reason to look forward to April.

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Neither Brave Nor Bold: Just Stupid.

October 28th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

“Tune your ear to the frequency of despair, and cross reference by the longitude and latitude of a heart in agony.


Gav threw in a brief mention of it on Sunday, but I wanted to come back around and reiterate exactly how unbelievably stupid Brave and Bold 28 was last week. Uzumeri hit ’em up earlier this week, so consider this “Bomb 1st,” a second reply.

In brief, the comic is about the time the Flash took a trip back to the Battle of the Bulge and hung out with the Blackhawks. There’s some typical comic book science tomfoolery to make it happen (involving light that travels slower than light speed), of course, and that’s dumb, but not as dumb as the main story. Barry Allen, Flash, is torn. He’s in a war zone, he has a plot device injury that keeps him from running at full speed (though he is clearly still faster than everyone else), and the Blackhawks want him to shoot up some Nazis. So he thinks, mopes, and then takes a uniform out of a supply box and shoots up some Nazis. Why is it okay to do this? “Because Barry Allen, American, can do those things in the uniform of his country, which is at war.”

Brave and the Bold: Comics That Insult Your Intelligence!

This story is really and truly the most offensively bad piece of crap I’ve read in ages. In pursuit of trying to make a point about “The Greatest Generation” and when it is okay to kill, JMS wrote the kind of story that mixes black and white morals/moralization, superheroic problem solving (hit it til it’s dead, leave a smug moral on its corpse), and a complete and utter lack of perspective.

I have a number of problems with the story, not the least of which is the lunacy of mixing superheroes and real world disasters. However, for the purposes of this post, number one is that Barry Allen steals a uniform and firearm from a box of supplies and pretends to be in the army for “weeks.” Impersonating a soldier is a crime. Impersonating a soldier and killing people is undoubtedly several orders of magnitude more illegal than just impersonating a soldier. Even dumber is Blackhawk insisting that this is war, and people kill or get killed during war, so start killing or get killed. Guess what Blackhawk: prisoners of war exist for a reason.

Soldiers aren’t just some guy who put on a uniform and decided to go shoot some patriotic bullets at infidels. They are specifically trained in a variety of disciplines, from combat to communication to inter-army relations. There are rules and regulations that they must follow, both in the UCMJ and wartime law. Those rules protect soldiers. However, soldiers are not civilians. Barry Allen is a civilian. Civilians who attempt to fight during wartime are unlawful, and should be arrested, tried, and possibly drawn up on war crimes, depending on what they’ve done. Barry Allen using his superhuman powers against normal humans while pretending to be something he’s not? I’d call that a war crime.

Basically, war isn’t a game of pickup basketball at the park. You don’t get to play shirts vs skins just because you take your top off and tighten your high tops. You get to sit on the sidelines, shut your fat yap, and hope for the best.

Second is the central conceit of the book, the question of “when is it okay to kill?”, is ridiculous. Pro-tip: we’re not children. Reducing a problem to an either/or situation works for children, because they don’t have the capacity to understand that the world is made of shades of grey. For kids, there are good guys and there are bad guys. For adults, it is never that simple. “When is it okay to kill?” is dumber when you consider that Barry Allen is a police officer in his civilian life. If anyone should have an opinion on that, it should be Barry. And it shouldn’t be an opinion as turgid and hamfisted as “Because Barry Allen, American, can do those things in the uniform of his country, which is at war.”

There are a number of very valid positions to take on the question. I’m sure we all have opinions on when, or if, it is okay. But, hey, Barry’s a superhero, so there must be a black or white answer. And that answer is “It is okay to kill when you jump through an unnecessary hoop to justify it to yourself in the name of specious logic and self-righteousness.”

After more garbage that you’ve seen in every time travel story ever (“Do we win? In the future, is it worth it?”), a bit more pontificating (“But the country is still the country. It has its flaws, and it isn’t always right, but it’s still intact. And I guess that’s all that matters,” he says, as he looks off into the distance), we’re left with the money shot of all World War II stories: a character looking off into a graveyard and re-affirming that “they were the extraordinary ones.”

My rawest, most honest reaction to this scene was “blow me.” You have a character who can move at superspeed, if not run during the story. He throws a thousand bricks and incapacitates a German unit in a matter of seconds. By the end of the book, he can move at light speed again and goes home, safe and sound. And he’s looking at the graves of the eighty thousand people, people who not thirty seconds ago were within arm’s reach, and thinking about how extraordinary they were?

That’s stupid. I’m stupid for reading it, JMS is stupid for writing it, and DC is stupid for publishing it. It’s not just stupid, it’s insulting. This is why superheroes have no business in World War II tales. There was nothing stopping the Flash from saving those lives. If he can put on a stolen uniform and shoot Germans willy-nilly, any idea of a temporal paradox is out the window. Not using his powers at the Battle of the Bulge is as stupid and patronizing as Superman insisting that he shouldn’t do anything more than beat up giant monsters. Because Flash could have saved them, but didn’t, their lives are on his head.

Keep superheroes out of World War II, and keep JMS out of my comics. Whatever goodwill he had from when he did Spider-Man with JRjr is burnt out and chased out. He’s terrible. I can’t think of the last comic I hated like I hate every single solitary inch of this one.

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We Care a Lot Part 14: Eddie, Are You Okay? Will You Tell Us, That You’re Okay?

July 6th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Last time on We Care a Lot, I talked about Daniel Way’s Venom on-going. Hitting the halfway point, I decided to stop and give myself a break to recuperate. It’s good to know that while that series was going on, Venom started to appear elsewhere. And why wouldn’t he? The reason he was turned into a full-blown bad guy again was so he could go back to being Spider-Man’s threat of the day.

Venom would make his return to Spider-Man’s world in Spectacular Spider-Man #1 for a five-issue story called The Hunger. This isn’t to be confused with the super-awesome four-issue story from years earlier called Venom: The Hunger, but it usually is. It’s kind of funny how although it’s obvious Paul Jenkins probably didn’t read that Len Kaminski story, he more or less wrote the same story, only with Spider-Man and without the happy ending.

As Paul Jenkins writes the story, we get Humberto Ramos on art. This is rather interesting, considering Francisco Herrera is doing the art on Venom at the same time. A little research shows that Ramos mentored Herrera and that really shouldn’t come to a surprise of anyone. Case in point:

Which came out a month apart.

Though there are parts that annoyed me, The Hunger isn’t so bad. If anything, it’s easily the most important Venom story in the past 15 years, so you have to give them that. Really. While it introduces some ideas that don’t go anywhere, it still gets the ball rolling and leads us to where we are today.

Read the rest of this entry �

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