Tag Archives: DC Comics

Creator-Owned Goodness

I have returned!

I know, I know, finally.

“Brett, you have been away too long and haven’t given us the skinny on what sort of comic books have been coming down the pipe for the past couple of weeks.  What is going on??”

I understand your frustration, I really do. But there was a huge debacle with Doctor Who that I had to sort out and finally I can say that I am caught up to current and am now suffering just like the rest of my fellow Whovians, while we wait every weekend for the new episodes. But enough about that. What you want are the comics.

For awhile now, I have been mulling over what I wanted my next blog to be about. It seems to me and I’m sure the same goes for you that I might not know a whole lot about comics outside of the DC Universe and while I am not as well versed in the Marvel Universe as DC….YET. I do try to dabble in a little bit of everything. To steal a phrase from a certain comic shop owner I know, “I’m a comic gourmand” If it is a comic book, I will try it and about 9 times out of 10 I am pretty sure that I will have enjoyed it in some way. I never look at a comic and say, “Meh, that was bad.” Or.  “OH GOD, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!” I try to find the best in everything I read, even if it is just ONE good thing.

Ranting aside, I wanted to take a step away from the publisher owned characters and titles and step into the realm of creator-owned.  A whole other beast.

To give a sort of blurry back story on creator owned books, for a long while that is, we had a slew of publisher owned titles and characters that mostly hit the nail on the head for what comic book readers were looking for. But a couple people decided that after either being wronged by a comic book publisher or just bored of what was coming out each week, they decided they wanted to start their own comic book companies and put out their own books. With that, we saw the birth of companies such as Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Top Cow, Boom Studios, etc.  Pretty much everything outside of the two big powerhouses Marvel and DC. With these creations, we saw new creators stepping out into the fray with new, bold ideas, some good and some bad. But their bravery is what helped pave the way for new books and ideas to be published with confidence that, “someone, somewhere will enjoy this crazy idea that I just came up with.”

© Image Comics

Flash forward to the past couple of years.

One company that has been leading the charge in the distribution of these creators’ brilliant ideas is Image Comics.  With books such as Invincible, Saga, Luther Strode, Witch Doctor, Danger Club, Manhattan Projects, Morning Glories, Skullkickers. The list goes on and on, endlessly, Image Comics has been bringing the heat to the comic book world, giving us not only new characters to love and grow with, but also the idea that with any wave of the hand, these titles could disappear without a second glance. It is a truly scary thought. We are truly in charge of these creators’ futures with these books, based on what we like, don’t like, or what we spend our hard earned dollars on.

If you are like me and my comic book cohorts, we have a rule that we try to follow.

Whenever there is a new number one and we are somewhat interested in it. We gotta give it a shot. We play the three issue game. You really cannot get the feeling of where a creator is taking a book, solely based on one issue. There is too much setup for a story that takes place over the course of a few issues that you will miss out on, especially if you don’t spend the time AND money to get more. So you could miss out technically on something great, just because it wasn’t enough to hook you in one issue. We have to trust the creators to hook and hold us. I can say with confidence that I haven’t been let down a whole lot when trying out a new book.

© Image Comics

© Image Comics

I like to think that they have me in mind when they sit down to create each issue. “Hmm…what would Brett like to see here?”  But, I’m pretty sure that that is just me.

There is something to be said about the ideas that flow for creator owned books. In the publisher owned world, there is a formula to follow. As much as we love seeing our favorite characters in books we have loved for years. Sometimes the growth we see in a character is huge, as long as it is within the confines of what the publishers want to see. No creator can go too far without a certain checks and balances that take place. I will clarify that I am in no way bashing what goes on in the publisher owned arena because I would be a mess without my Daredevil and Superman, but with creator owned stories, it is all fair game.

These are creations that the storytellers came up with of their own accord and the fates of characters and worlds are in the hands of the creators themselves. They are like gods, molding these worlds in their image and can give and take with ease (Not to give any creators any ideas or god complexes!) But it truly is in their hands. We end up falling in love with a character or characters, not knowing that the whole time; they were destined to fall at the hands of the villain or cataclysmic event. It creates a hook that sinks into our hearts so deep that at least in my instance, we never truly recover.

witchdoctor

© Image Comics

When I entered the creator owned world of comics a couple of years ago, I started with just a few small titles.  The Strange Talent of Luther Strode and Witch Doctor. They blew me out of the freaking water with how wonderful they were. The biggest shock however was how Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore, Brandon Seifert, and Lukas Ketner were all these small potato names (no offense, you guys are brilliant!) It was a huge shock that this talent was just hidden away, waiting for them to come out with these books and shock the comic book world.  Now we see that not only are they continuing these series and adding more to these books’ mythos, (I currently have Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #6 in my possession and am sad to see another great mini end and have to wait again for another!) but the creators themselves have become bigger names. Justin Jordan has become a go-to creator in DC Comics, finishing up stories in Deathstroke and Team 7, both great books and beginning to take over for Superboy and Green Lantern: New Guardians. While Tradd Moore is doing more art for Marvel, covers mostly. And I haven’t read them but I hear Brandon Seifert is doing a bang up job on Clive Barker’s Hellrasier for BOOM Studios.

© Image Comics

© Image Comics

Another great creator owned book that I started out on and without a doubt holds its own is Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers. Imagine if you will, since I know EVERYONE is a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, two badass monster hunters, one human and one dwarf. Only labeled as the bald one and the short one, doing what monster hunters do, killing monsters for gold, fame, and adventure. Also so they can afford that next ale. So much wit and sarcasm come from the book, while all the craziest shit happens to the two of them. The sound effects that help move the action along is one of the greatest things I have seen in a comic. They are fresh and completely original, while also being appropriate to what is going on in the story. A must-read for anyone who is looking for something original.

© Image Comics

© Image Comics

Following these creator owned gems, Image kept trying to out-do themselves when it came to what great comic book was to come out next and for the next year and up to the present they have been doing just that. It has been coined the “Image Comics Creative Renaissance”  We have seen titles such as Peter Panzerfaust, Mind The Gap, SAGA, Manhattan Projects, and East of West now.  And this is just scratching the surface of what has and will come out in the future. They keep trying to put out fresh, new ideas that keep us guessing while still bringing something to the table to compete with the Big Two every week.

Not to mention, a huge boost to my creativity because I thought if they can do it then I can do it too! I cannot tell you how easy it is to be inspired when I sit down and read a new story. It gets me so pumped and gets the juices flowing for my own ideas. Ones that I hope I will be able to finally sit down and start fleshing out more. Just thinking about it now is calling me to sit down and try. We are definitely going to sit and chat later about those ideas too. Why not bounce my ideas off the entirety of Internet….or everyone who sits down and reads this blog at least! Enough about me though.

© Dark Horse Comics

© Dark Horse Comics

I wanted to also take a minute and tell you about some of the great creator owned stuff I am reading outside of Image. With IDW Publishing, one of the greatest books to grace the stands on a monthly basis is Locke and Key. The great Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez team up has been killing it. With a fresh horror story with huge supernatural elements sprinkled in, this book took what is great about comics and what a great novel should be and make it a match made in heaven.

Another couple of great books coming out of Dark Horse as originals are Francesco Francavilla’s noir pulp superhero hit, The Black Beetle. A wonderful read from beginning to end that gives you a classic feel of what the Masks were like back in the days when you listened to them on the radio. The other book was one I just picked up today called Amala’s Blade. Focusing on a sort of steampunk feel, it follows the character of Amala, a master assassin who has been hired on to kill off many a target. While two sides of the world war on the Purifiers and Modifiers. The Modifiers are a people from what I have seen that devote themselves to modifying their lives, weapons, etc. While the Purifiers are the purists and stay from all the technological advances. And Amala is caught in the middle, making enemies on both sides without a care in the world. Did I mention she has the spirits of everyone she has killed, following her around on her adventures as well, and giving her a hard time? Definitely another gem to check out.

These creators do a great job though because not only are they trying to tell a great story. It is a story or an idea that they came up with on their own. Whether or not it was just a quick pitch that turned into something amazing or their brain-child they have held on to for years, just waiting to share and tell with all of us. It is amazingly inspiring to be able to share and take part in this with them and I love them for it each and every time I sit down to read the next issue.

So I know this was a long read and I’m not going to apologize because I owed you guys this. It has been a long time coming and I know I have promised that I am going to be better about this. School is finished up for the semester so I’ll have all summer to keep this going.

I really appreciate you all taking a look and spending the time to read my rants. It means the world to me.

I’ll talk to you guys soon,

Brett

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The price of magic and “Heckblazer”

© DC Comics

© DC Comics

“You take what you didn’t earn. But you pay for it. You always pay for it.”

I know that there are a lot of fans out in the community that didn’t get an early introduction to John Constantine, same as me, until the New 52 started. And since I started reading comics about 4 years ago, I have always been interested in Constantine and Hellblazer. But could never will myself to start because it was one of those series that were already over 250 issues in, that is an overwhelming amount of catch-up I would of had to endure. So I welcomed the opportunity when he appeared in Justice League Dark, almost two years ago.

After DC comics announced Hellblazer’s end at issue 300 and the new book Constantine coming out, there was a cry in outrage, asking as to why they were ending such a great book, just so they could fully integrate John Constantine into their new universe with no loose ends hanging in the Vertigo imprint. Many, MANY fans were worried that with Hellblazer gone, the mature content in turn would also disappear. There wouldn’t be a witty con-man indulging in chain-smoking, excessive drinking, etc.

I can’t say that I was one of those fans, but I did pick up Peter Milligan’s last story arc, “Death and Cigarettes” that wrapped up Hellblazer and was immediately inspired to go back and start from the beginning. I wanted to understand the John Constantine that others have been able to get to know for many years. So I dove in and started picking up back issues starting at #1 and was blown away. It was an incredible start to a series that I will collect and read to its entirety. I was able to get about 22 issues into Hellblazer, before Constantine came out this week and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of actually who he is.

But from the first issue of Constantine that I read  and comparing it to what I have read in Hellblazer, Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes, and Renato Guedes do their very best and prove that they care about this character’s true nature and it holds up quite nicely. I have seen on Twitter that Lemire has stated multiple times that he loves the Vertigo line of books and grew up reading them when he was younger. So having someone with that sort of passion on an already well-developed character proves to benefit us as the readers greatly because he isn’t going to do Constantine wrong. And with Fawkes as scriptwriter and working together to co-plot this new title just helps to soothe my worries. The powerhouse writing team strikes again!

From the first page to the last of this issue, I felt like I was reading  an updated version of one of my older Hellblazers. Ever the con-man, Constantine is all about one thing and that is himself. We have seen it throughout the New 52, stringing along the Justice League Dark to help put himself in a better position and it transfers right into this new series as well. All the way up til the end of the issue, when he is ready and willing to sacrifice another human being and “friend” mind you, at the hands of Sargon the Sorceress. All so he can slip away, unharmed with his prize, the magical artifact he acquired right before her appearance. Being the loner he is however, he knows that sacrificing his friend will cost him dearly in the end, but in the here and now is what he is focused on.

Mature themes be damned, the first issue of the new series does its best to stay with the original intent of Hellblazer, but doesn’t sacrifice the fact that they are trying to reach out to new audiences in the comic book community (that may not have the drive like I have) to start all way back at #1, 300 issues ago. They do their absolute best to give a great hopping on-point to John Constantine and give them the opportunity to start to understand the anti-hero himself.

I want to end this with saying to anyone who read Hellblazer and are boycotting this new series to at least TRY Constantine and read it with an open mind. With only one issue, you won’t get the full scope of where Lemire and Fawkes want to take the book, but if you at least try it, then you know whether or not its for you.

See, I told you I read more then just Batman!

Thanks for listening guys!

-Brett

 


Creative changes and the comic community.

© DC Comics

© DC Comics

It’s amazing how this gentleman can rock our comic community right to its foundation.

I figure if you hadn’t heard yet,  Mr. Stewart was at the head of some HUGE flak that has had DC Comics under fire.

On the heels of Andy Diggle leaving Action Comics before his first book was to be published was a big disappointment. (I myself was looking forward to what he was going to be bringing to the Man of Steel, paired with Tony Daniel) Came the news that also Joshua Hale Fialkov was leaving the Green Lantern universe. He was going to be writing both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns. (another two books that I was definitely looking forward to with the creative teams that were announced.) Diggle said it was for professional reasons, while Fialkov had made the choice of leaving because of creative and editorial differences. It was very sad to here but I can understand when a creator says that they have to leave, they have their reasons.

Our community was in an uproar however when we heard a rumor, which was later confirmed as to why Fialkov had left his station in the Green Lantern universe. Myself included.

DC was rumored to be planning the death of John Stewart and had asked Fialkov to change who he had planned on killing, to John. I can understand not wanting to have your name on a book like that when it has such controversy right off the bat.

After reading lots of other community opinions on the subject and realizing that we are a spirited bunch and our opinions can also be spirited, I formed my own opinions once the initial shock ran through and discovered as well that DC has rumored to have backed down on that story idea, after a long day of what I can only imagine as a tsunami of hate mail and hateful comments.

There is something to be said about how powerful a tool the Internet can be. No matter what rants and hateful comments happened to end up in DC Comics corner, something must of hit them to make them rethink their idea. We mustn’t forget that they are a business and with that, they are out to make money. And nothing could make more money then a death. Let’s recall whats going on in the Batman universe with the death of Damian Wayne. Seeing the death of John Stewart would make a POP in sales for them. But I imagined that with Geoff Johns finishing up his 9 year Green Lantern run, ending with a huge bang would keep those sales high. It could be that they are planning for a sudden drop when creative teams leave after issue twenties.

Either way, creative teams have changed and we are seeing Charles Soule, whom is now writing Swamp Thing, will take over Red Lanterns while Van Jensen will take over Green Lantern Corps with co-plotting help from Robert Venditti.

Why I am writing this is not only letting everyone know what is going on. But also talk about the way we follow creators and characters.

I personally, once I find a creator that I love, do my damnedest to find a way to give them my money and support them so they can keep creating. Fialkov and Diggle are creators that I enjoy and wanted to see them take on characters that I also love. I am guilty of this and it took me all day to realize that I shouldn’t get so wrapped up in the tiny details like creators leaving books for their own personal reasons, but just make sure to follow them wherever they decide to go. I need to put myself in the hands of the publishers and hope that whom they pick to take over will do a good job and help me find new, exciting creators to give a chance. Just like I did with Fialkov and Diggle. It’s just easier when they are creating for characters I was always interested in. Now, I am not saying that I will not pick up a book just because a creator is on it or a new indie title they have started because I will always do that. If it wasn’t for Mark Waid (Happy Birthday by the way good sir!), I would of never tried a Hulk book. And that is a book I look forward to every month now. A good creator can make anyone a believer.

One other point I wanted to make is that even though I understand why a creator will leave, I don’t want it to become habit. With this situation, it felt like to me that DC is scaring away its indie talent that wants to create for these characters. If you don’t give them the chance to grow and build worlds for these characters to live in and exist, we will never be able to find the next great story. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, and Geoff Johns as creators and they are doing wonderful things in their books and I hope that they continue that. But we cannot place an entire universe of characters on their shoulders alone. We need others to take up arms and work with them to create a wonderful universe that we can look forward to every week.

I think I have finished ranting for one night. I just wanted to share my thoughts with everyone and I hope you all can let me know how you feel too.

Talk to you guys soon

-Brett

 

 


Requiem with a silent R *spoilers*

I have to premise this post with saying that I am HUGELY biased toward Grant Morrison. But I feel that it is for good reasons. I owe him for my love of comic books because his writing is where I started this journey. I’m sure you will hear more about that as my time in this blog goes on so I won’t bore you with all the details now.

Also as a warning of caution, anyone that hasn’t read Batman Inc. #8 or hasn’t had it spoiled for you yet. I would suggest passing on this post until you are prepared. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone.

Here. We. Go.

© DC Comics

© DC Comics

It is such a bittersweet moment to be able to say you were a part of an event such as the death of a Robin. But also a great moment as well because I now can say I have a feeling of what it was like for everyone reading comics back in the late 1980’s with the death of Jason Todd.

Tragic.

As someone who has spent most of his time reading Batman comics, staying with Grant Morrison all the way, it is great to finally see the culmination of what he was trying to tell back with the Batman title story, “Batman and Son.”

Now, Mr. Morrison has written many a Batman story before this point, such as Arkham Asylum and Batman: Gothic. (which is collected in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight). And these stories are just as important as the stories he is telling now on Batman. If not because they are just wonderful Batman stories, but also because Morrison is the type of writer who loves to reference things he has written before to use as a little thank you to everyone who has stuck with him and read everything up to the present. I recommend them highly to anyone who enjoys a good Batman story or wants to read Grant Morrison. It is those little instances where you can say,

“Hey! I remember that!” or “Holy crap! That is so cool that he brought that back!”

Just a couple things that I distinctly remember me saying but I think we have strayed far from the point.

Morrison brought Damian Wayne back into DC Comics with the start of his Batman run in “Batman and Son.” And from this point, Morrison had found a way for you to hate Damian with every fiber of your being. He was just a little shit that had equal parts, Wayne and al’ Ghul and it showed. He did everything he could to one up everyone he could that was connected to the Bat family. Disrespecting both Bruce and Alfred and even trying to kill Tim Drake at one point for being a lesser ward then he could be to Batman. If you didn’t hate him then, there was something really wrong with you.

But as time went on he starts to grow on you, especially when Dick Grayson took the on the cowl of Batman when Bruce was gone for a time. (easiest way to explain events in Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne) ((From here is where I refer to Dick Grayson as Grayson, so it doesn’t look like I keep typing “dick” all the time))

© DC Comics

© DC Comics

Grayson takes his role very seriously and has trouble at first with being Batman, but I believe he had one thing going for him; having Damian as a partner. It was a very interesting dynamic having the two of them work together because it was like the roles of Batman and Robin had reversed. Batman always had the serious, down-to-business mentality and crushed the will of any criminal that crossed paths with the duo. While on the other side, Robin was the happy-go-lucky ward that was always having fun with the patrolling and crime fighting. But with this specific team-up, Robin was now the serious one, while Batman was telling Robin to lighten up and have a little fun.

In Morrison’s Batman and Robin, that is exactly what happens with the readers as well. We all started to lighten up and look at Damian in a different light. Even though he was different, (being raised by Talia al Ghul will do that to you I think) under Grayson’s tutelage and living at home with Alfred without Bruce there to…raise Damian and fight with each other  like they had in the beginning, we were able to grow with Damian as well.

By the time the New 52 started, Damian was able to grow into one of the best Robins in my opinion. They have all had their strengths and weaknesses but in my case, he was the Robin I had been with since the beginning and I feel like he had the most growing to do.

But one thing did change, Bruce was back. And this is where things take a strange turn. Grayson and Damian were best friends. Bruce and Damian were father and son. Naturally there are going to be problems.

Peter Tomasi, being an editor for Grant Morrison’s Batman run before the start of the New 52, was able to keep the characteristics of what we loved about Damian true while adding his own element to the mix. He has done a wonderful job showing how the two Waynes grow as father and son. Of course, they had a lot of issues early on but he does a great job to iron out all those nitty gritty details and make them grow as a family.

That is what makes Morrison’s decision to kill Damian Wayne all the more tragic in the end. Of course everyone who worked with Morrison, like Tomasi knew that this was going to happen because it was his idea to kill off Damian all along. It was just a matter of when. I feel like he waited an appropriate amount of time because instead of killing him early on because of how much of a pain he was and hearing the resounding cheer from an entire fan base, he waited until we all loved him and who he was a human being and then stripped him away from us without another thought.

Requiem is what we are seeing on all the Bat family titles as a, “In Memory…” for Damian Wayne and they all do a good job of showing how the other members have taken Damian’s passing. But the issue that ultimately stands out in my mind and makes the death seem more final and real is Peter Tomasi’s and Patrick Gleason’s Batman and Robin issue 18.

This issue was created to be a completely silent look into how Bruce is actually faring with the loss of his son. Which by the way, isn’t very well at all. It isn’t at all surprising  He is completely filled to the brim with rage and sadness that is then taken out on the criminal scum that exists in Gotham. At one point, he rounded up an entire night’s worth of criminals and placed them on the roof of GCPD, leaving only the Bat Signal turned on to let the department know. I believe the best part from that issue is at the end when he discovers the letter Damian had left him posted to his gear in the Batcave when he left to go help Batman during the events of Batman Inc. #8. (I won’t read it here because I want everyone to go out there and buy the issue for themselves.  It is worthy of being in any and everyones’ collection.) But I can say without a doubt that it made me tear up because of how touching it was and how much I felt for Bruce more than an any other moment.

All in all, Damian will be missed greatly in my eyes. I’m not sure what DC Comics has planned for Robin with his passing. Whether or not he returns, that will be left up to them. But after reading an interview with Morrison just yesterday on Newsarama.com, he has said , “So all the people that are hoping for a happy ending for Damian can forget it.”

So that says to me that in Morrison’s end of his Batman Inc. run with issue 12, we will not see a return of Damian, but who’s to say that DC won’t bring him back later on. It is a rough way to live in my opinion. On one side, I want to keep the integrity of Grant Morrison’s story and not see a return of Damian because it is what he wanted for his story and we could just keep it that way. But on the other side, I love Damian and would love to see him return. I just don’t know how it could be done.

I also want to leave this link here, taking you to the interview Newsarama.com did with Morrison, just as added reading. It is a wonderful interview with a lot of information about Batman Inc. and beyond for Grant Morrison. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/grant-morrison-talks-robin-death-and-action-comics.html

If you have made it this far, I hope you can hear me giving you a standing ovation. I didn’t know I had this in me but I hope that this was some what informational or at least showed you how much I freaking love comic books. I can not wait to share more with you guys. I’ll talk to you all soon.

I wanted to leave this with you guys because this summed up the entire relationship between Grayson and Damian and it was fucking awesome Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham killed it!

© DC Comics

© DC Comics