Hard Question for a Soft Target

April 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

NRAMA: Fair enough. Back on the subject of your work on Blackest Night, is there a character you’re writing that you’re liking more than you expected?

GJ: A bunch. The biggest surprise is how easy it is to write when Hal and Barry are together. These two know each other so well, and there’s such a strong tie to them…it’s like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And something happens to Hal when he’s with Barry. It happens to me when I hang out with my friend, Matt. He’s so organized and punctual that a little part of my brain shuts off. I don’t need to worry about the time or where we’re going. I feel like that happens to Hal when he’s around Barry. Hal goes with the flow a little more, while Barry’s taking up the slack of figuring out where to go. I have more Barry and Hal scenes written down because they just keep writing themselves. Introvert and extrovert. Saint and sinner. Time and space.

And then there’s a character that’s really surprised me. I don’t want to give it away but she’s one of the strongest and most recognizable characters in the DC Universe, and yet she hasn’t been in the spotlight for a very long time. But she will be now. For quite some time to come.

NRAMA: OK, then which character will people get to know better in Blackest Night than they’ve ever known before?

GJ: Same character. She’s been around since the ’60s.

-Geoff Johns, from an interview with Vaneta Rogers. Newsarama is currently throwing up malware warnings in my browser, and there’s really no reason to click through anyway, but if you do, browser beware.

Let’s take a brief look at a few high-profile moves in Geoff Johns’s post-Flash career:
1. Brought back Hal Jordan
2. Brought back Barry Allen
3. Brought back Professor Zoom
4. Brought back Ronnie Raymond
5. Introduced a bunch of lame-os in JSA
6. Wrote Blackest Night
7. Explained various minutiae, including Power Girl’s boob window, Barry Allen’s bowtie, and why love is actually a bunch of creepo stalker chicks who don’t wear clothes and love to brainwash people
8. Called Aquaman’s wife “one of the strongest and most recognizable characters in the DC Universe”

Honest question: why’s Geoff Johns seem to like the boringest parts of comics?

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Marvel vs DC: What’s Beef?

January 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Here’s an excerpt from a press release Marvel sent out yesterday:

In an effort to provide assistance to comic retailers in 2010, Marvel is offering retailers an opportunity to turn unsold comics into an extremely rare Siege #3 Deadpool Variant!

Retailers – for every 50 stripped covers of the following comics sent to Marvel, you will qualify to receive one FREE Siege #3 Deadpool Variant. The 50 stripped covers can be any combination of the comics listed below and all submissions need to be received at the Marvel office at the address below by Tuesday 2/16/2010. Also included with the stripped covers must be your store contact information including Diamond Account # and email address.

Stripped Covers To Be Sent:
Adventure Comics #4
Booster Gold #26
Doom Patrol #4
Justice League Of America #39
Outsiders #24
R.E.B.E.L.S #10

Ooh, that’s shots fired.

Let’s pull this apart piece by piece, okay? Top to bottom.

First is the timing. This is the first real week of comics news in 2010. Last week was Christmas recovery and fairly light. This week, DC has been slinging high profile announcements left and right. Among other things, they’ve shown off Gail Simone being back on Birds of Prey with some crappy artist, a preview of Jock’s take on Batwoman with Greg Rucka, a look at the Return of Bruce Wayne, and Keith Giffen is getting a Justice League book. Fan-service announcements all, two trying to recapture past glories and two pimping big deals. Add the announcement of Brightest Day, their new biweekly comic and probable spine of the DCU, into the mix and you have a big week just three days in.

This press release is aggressive and instantly controversial, the type of thing that makes people want to argue about it ad nauseam. It’s sharp and pits the two companies right up against each other, upping the ante on the competition between the two companies. It also disrupts DC’s grip on the news cycle in a very major way. At the time of this writing, the Robot6 article on Gail Simone’s return to BoP has 32 comments. The piece on the press release has 107, despite being posted several hours later. Marvel pushed DC right out of the limelight with something that is sure to cause discussion (fights) for days to come.

Second is the subtext of the press release. The first line begins, “In an effort to provide assistance to comic retailers in 2010[.]” Marvel is positioning itself as doing the retailers in the Direct Market a favor by allowing them to trade unsold books for a rare variant that’ll go for big bucks. Essentially, they are saying “We are the good guys. Those other guys did you wrong, but we’ve got your back.”

The subtext doesn’t end there. The books that are part of the promotion have one thing in common: they were all part of DC’s Blackest Night promotion, where ordering 25 or 50 copies of each issue gave retailers the chance to order a bag of plastic rings. That promotion was a huge success for DC, with several books moving as many as thirty-five thousand more copies than they did the month before. They ran the sales charts for November 2009. It left DC holding seven of the top ten spots in the Top 300 sales chart, up from six in October and September and four in August.

Some retailers required customers to purchase a book to get the rings, others treated them like the giveaways they were intended to be and gave them out like candy on Halloween, and others, the worst of the lot, sold the rings on their own. Conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the books stayed on the shelves. The sales charts for December seem to suggest the same thing- once the promotion was over, a few of the books involved lost roughly twenty thousand readers. Past experience suggests that that fall will continue into January. (I’m rounding these numbers off, by the way. To compare for yourself, look at the October, November, and December charts. I’m an English major, I can barely count to ten.)

Now, Marvel is taking a shot at what is basically DC’s biggest sales success in ages, and doing it in such a way that wipes the foundation for that success away. Suggesting that the comics didn’t sell implies that the entire draw for the increased orders were the bags of plastic rings, which honestly probably isn’t that far off from the truth. REBELS is an enjoyable book, but even for a Blackest Night tie-in, it got a huge bump. Comic fans like collecting stuff.

So, top to bottom:
1. Marvel is saying, “DC left you holding a bunch of stuff you cannot sell.” It’s a serious diss, attacking DC’s entire reason for being. Regardless of the quality of the books (I’m fond of REBELS myself), DC needed a gimmick other than good storytelling to sell these comics. If a comics company needs plastic rings to sell comics… well, you do the math on that one.

2. The timing is kicking sand all over DC’s big week. It’s a release calculated to cause controversy, gain a lot of attention, and piss people off. It’s very, very public, and definite shots fired.

3. Deadpool, as in the cover boy of the “extremely rare Siege #3 Deadpool Variant,” is a copy of Deathstroke. Marvel is shipping a cover with a knock-off of a DC character, one who has enjoyed inexplicable success over the past year, in exchange for stripped DC comic books. That’s just salt in the wound, isn’t it? A cheap shot nestled inside a larger cheap shot?

Marvel’s promotion is cruel. Taking DC’s big win last year and big week this year and upending them in an attempt to put DC in its place is fairly messed up. At the same time, it isn’t exactly inaccurate. Despite DC’s big month, Marvel still won November ’09. It’s definitely a cheap shot, but… it’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

This release is the kind of aggressive posturing we haven’t seen out of Marvel since Jemas and Quesada simultaneously pissed DC off forever and rocketed Marvel back into the limelight. It’s Marvel thumbing its nose at DC and reminding them who has the market share advantage. Basically, Marvel is M. Bison and the gang, and DC is Guile.

Verdict? Ouch.

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This Week in Panels: Week 15

January 3rd, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Welp… here it is.

Blackest Night #6
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Origins of Siege
Brian Michael Bendis, Lucio Parrillo, Fred Van Lente and many others

And that’s it! That was anti-climactic. Luckily, we of 4L have a little more content to make up for this, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

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The Top Ten Real Life Black Lanterns I Want to See

June 30th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

In only a few weeks, DC will release Blackest Night, the big summer event and culmination of Geoff Johns’ fantastic run on Green Lantern. Willpower, fear, love, hate, compassion, greed and hope will be duking it out as Black Hand and that Cosmic Harvey Dent Smurf resurrect all sorts of heroes and villains to join their side. We’ve been given notice about some who would return and others who might. Earth 2 Superman, Martian Manhunter, Terra and the Flying Graysons will be there for sure. Perhaps we’ll see Elongated Man, Alexander Luthor, or General Glory rise from the grave.

But you know what? It’s a bit cheap. All these black rings are flying around and the only major resurrections go to those who are superheroes, supervillains or acquaintances thereof? That’s no fun! Okay, that’s a lie, since this is going to rock, but that’s not as fun as it could be!

By focusing on the fictional, think of all those we’re missing out on. What about the real corpses out there? We could not only have Heath Ledger back, but also Cesar Romero as the icing on the cake. David Carradine could return to get revenge on those murdering ninjas. Jack Kirby could engulf Jim Starlin in a bubble construct and toss him into the deep recesses of space out of revenge for Death of the New Gods. Elvis Presley could return to Graceland and… oops. Disregard that. I forgot that Elvis never actually died.

After much deliberation, I have put together the Top Ten Real Life Black Lanterns I Want to See.

Read the rest of this entry �

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“Reruns of Your Grief”

June 12th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver’s Flash: Rebirth #3 explains Barry Allen’s bowtie (again), features a race between Flash and Superman (Flash wins, because the other races were for charity), and the return of a Flash villain (surprise!). It’s bringing a very Silver Age character into a modern context, resulting in the kind of story that Barry hasn’t really appeared in before, to my knowledge. It’s kind of like Green Lantern: Rebirth, which was the revitalization and redemption of a Silver Age icon whose time had passed some years before. The new Supergirl is the old Supergirl, the new Kid Flash used to be the Flash, and Green Lantern is doing a story that springs from, what, eight pages from twenty years ago?

And I’m bored.

I’m not on the “DC sucks, Marvel rules!” tip, because a lot of Marvel books are boring me in a different way than most of DC’s current output. I’ll read a book if an interesting team is on it, obviously, and I buy a gang of Vertigo. But, when I think of what I’m least interested in currently, DC is the first thing on my lips.

It was the Flash/Superman race in Flash: Rebirth. I’m a Flash fan. It’s obvious, and I’ve written about my love for certain stories featuring character before. At the same time… the race was just another in a long line of nods at a time that was over before I was born. That’s the only reason it existed. It’s like a Family Guy joke– “do you remember when?” I don’t know what it added to the story except “Barry is a jerk now” and “Superman is slower than the Flash.” The bowtie thing– I don’t get it. Who cares about his bowtie? Is this something I’m missing? Does it hold some special significance, other than a woman he just met gave it to him, and he later married her?

No, it’s another “remember when?”

Answer: Yes.

“Interested yet?”

Answer: No. I’m tired of watching reruns.

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Square Story, Round Character

May 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I know that I’m Mister Push Comics Forward Break Them Characters Give Us The New-new, but I do have one continuity-based pet peeve. I really dislike it when creators take established characters and regress them, or just change them entirely, in order to fit them into the story they want to tell.

There are plenty of examples out there. The most egregious are probably Bobby Drake, Iceman, and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, with Sam Guthrie, Cannonball, bringing up the rear. Bobby and Johnny were the hot-headed youngsters of the X-Men and Fantastic Four, respectively, and Sam is pretty much the poster-child for the second generation of X-Men. All three have gone from immature, mistake-making, and newbie heroes into grown-up, mature, and seasoned adults.

Bobby is an Omega-level mutant with an insane amount of control over ice, and therefore water, and has come to terms with that. Johnny has wielded the Power Cosmic a couple of times, saved the world several dozen times, and seen planets, dimensions, and time periods other people don’t even dream about. Sam was trained by the son of the X-Men’s best strategist, who was himself a child of war. He also had the benefit of being trained by two generations of X-Men, and when he struck out on his own, he found success.

The problem is that when a writer has a story that needs an impetuous kind of fella, or a newbie to make a dumb decision, or someone to show just how mature or smart another character is… guess which dudes are the fall guys.

Reed Richards has gone through the “ignoring his family for the benefit of science by the way he is a jerk” cycle a fistful of times now, most recently in Mark Millar’s Civil War. You’d think that Cyclops’s turn as the depressed and distant loner would be over after New X-Men, a story designed to push him past that, would never happen again. Or that Beast Boy, who is like thirty years old and should get a new name, would be written as something other than a horny teenager. Nah.

This is something that’s been bugging me more than usual lately, since the three biggest guys in comics have all been doing it. Mark Millar, Brian Bendis, and Geoff Johns have all taken characters who had established personalities or gimmicks, tossed it out, and slotted something new in because they needed X so that they could write Y. Rather than creating X, they just took Z and turned it into X. And that’s lame.

I brought visual aids. Read the rest of this entry �

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Star Sapphire Needs A Revamp

March 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Alanna, my friend who made the GIF that should clearly show you why you shouldn’t be reading or buying comics by Greg Land, read Green Lantern from last week and, like a lot of really smart people (me), realized that something sucked. In her own words:

I really hate the Star Sapphire outfit. A lot, it’s a stupid outfit and a recent redesign, so someone looked at it in the last decade and thought it was a good idea, and that’s terrible. But I think I get the idea, the designer tried to make it a sexy costume to go with the whole love theme. It’s just that they just made it impractical (especially when you’re as endowed as most of the Star Sapphires) and completely ridiculous. Bits of the detailing are neat, but they’re completely overwhelmed by the rest.

I figured they’d look far better, or at least like a Corps worth taking seriously, if they’d put on something that isn’t a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. So I threw this together.

Alanna popped into Photoshop and sent over this:

Things I like about this:
-The black provides a great parallel to the uniform of the Green, Yellow, Red, and Orange Lanterns. Put simply, it makes the Star Sapphires actually look like a Corps, rather than a legion of space hookers.
-Black and violet goes together pretty well, and even gives the uniform something of a sinister look. The Sapphires are straight up brainwashing people into their corps, so this really works.
-Love doesn’t, and shouldn’t, equal sexy. Therefore, the Love Corps shouldn’t really be letting it all hang out. Isn’t a big part of love keeping it all your private bits limited to one person? Sexiness at least has an element of “Hey look at THESE,” but I’m pretty sure “love” as a concept requires a bit of discretion or discernment.
-It’s way better than the real uniform.

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Barry Allen: So Flash and So Clean, Clean

January 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Barry Allen was one of the most optimistic men I’ve ever known. A forensic scientist who looked at life differently than most in his position… Working at the crime lab — Barry saw his job as protecting the innocent rather than damning the guilty. I wish I could’ve understood that.

-Batman, on Barry Allen (Flash #205)

Sometimes, when I’m feeling mean, I call the Justice Society of America a team of guest stars. I pretty much mean that about everyone on the team but Jay Garrick. Jay Garrick is a Flash, and I love Flashes.

They each have their own flavors. Jay is the elder statesman, the guy who’s been around the block and who may not be the best around, but is definitely the most seasoned. Wally is the rookie who made good in being a hero and a man, and has the Justice League status and family life to prove it. I’ve talked about Wally often enough that I think my fondness for the character can go relatively unstated. Barry, though, is something else entirely. I’ve written about the guy before.

One thing that Johns established in his run on the Flash is that the Rogues respected Barry. They didn’t like him, but they respected him. It may not have been fun and games, but it certainly wasn’t made up of death threats and tortured girlfriends.

The phrase that I associate with Barry the most is “Flash fact.” He’s the classic hero. Clean-cut, square jaw, a little goofy in his social life. He’s the Saturday morning cartoon guy. If you wanted to directly translate the Flashes to cartoons, Barry would be your best choice. Wally has the (entertaining) baggage of a family, Jay Garrick is really kind of too boring to lead a show. Barry, though, Barry has everything you need. He has the intrepid girlfriend who knows his secret, even though he doesn’t know she knows, so you have the bonus of both a romance and a capable and funny female cast member without falling into annoying Lois Lane drama. He has villains with really, really dumb and entertaining gimmicks, and the Flash costume is already pretty much one of the best visuals in comics. It’s the perfect Saturday morning cartoon.

So, Barry, to me, represents a different era of hero. Back when heroes were heroes, investigative reporters were dumber than entire bags of bricks, and dudes thought that being so angry about being colorblind made it okay to leave your house and call yourself “Rainbow Raider.”

Jay is the wise Flash, Wally is the accomplished Flash, and Barry? He’s the happy Flash. He has fun.

Here’s the solicit for Flash: Rebirth #1, the post-Final Crisis return of Barry Allen:

The Flash: Rebirth #1

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver

Through the decades, many heroes have taken the mantle of The Flash, but they all ride the lightning that crackles in the wake of the greatest hero the DC Universe has ever known, the man who sacrificed himself to save the Multiverse: Barry Allen!

Following the events of Final Crisis, Barry has beaten death and returned to a fast-paced world that a man out of time wouldn’t recognize. Or is it a world that is only just now catching up? All the running he’s done before was just a warmup for the high-speed race that he and every other Flash must now run, because even though one speedster might have beaten death, another has just turned up dead! From Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, the visionaries responsible for the blockbuster Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps War, comes the start of an explosive and jaw-dropping epic that will reintroduce to the modern age the hero who single-handedly birthed the Silver Age of comics! DC history will be made, and the Flash legacy will be redefined!
On sale April 1 • 1 of 5 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

I love the Flashes, I really do. But, I’m tired of heroes being fueled by tragedy. Reintroducing a classic Silver Age hero with a newly dead one just sounds lame. I realize that I’m judging it by the solicit, but that’s what solicits are there for. It’s a story summary so I can decide if I want to buy it. Right now, I don’t want to buy it. The man out of time aspect could be interesting, but the murder mystery? I’m tired.

Barry Allen cures Iris of the Anti-Life Equation with a kiss. That’s Barry in a nutshell for me. He’s bright and shiny and hope and fast. He’s above all the muck and grime and garbage that superheroes tend to get put through nowadays.

Barry could never be a Marvel character, and I love that about him.

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The Hurting

January 6th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I love Tim O’Neil’s reviews, and his wrap-up of the latest issue of JSA is pretty much spot on.

Remember a few months back when I said that the Gog storyline could be really interesting if it turned out that the all-powerful, benevolent Gog actually was as benevolent and kindly as he wanted everyone to believe he was? That such a twist would actually be far more interesting than the inevitable revelation that Gog was just an evil demigod after world domination after all? Well, this is the issue wherein the omnipotent evil demigod is dispatched with surprising alacrity considering how effectively he was built up as unbeatable. All the thorny ethical and ideological questions of the past six months are wrapped up in a dismissive “oh well, he really was evil after all” shrug.

Click through, check it out. He’s got some other gems in there, as well.

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October 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I just started to like Cable. The first arc was way too slow (which is why I picked it back up with the newest issue), and I’m still not 100% convinced on the Bishop turn, but I’m interested enough to keep reading. I want to say something, though.

Now, I like Richard Corben. I’m coming around on Cable. But, and don’t read this the wrong way, I hate dead babies. I can’t think of a good usage of them in comics and I honestly think it’s kind of dumb and needlessly shocking. Ohh, look how bad that guy is, he’s gonna kill a baby.

This is actually the second dead baby I’ve seen in comics this week, with Rogue’s Revenge featuring a baby getting disintegrated or time travelled or zapped out of existence or whatever– it was still dumb.

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