Friday, September 30, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: The Last Flashpoint Friday

Flashpoint 5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang, & Sandra Hope
Rating: 2 out of 5 Pixels

In this finale that was meant to tie-up about twenty loose plot threads, introduce the biggest reboot in decades, and wow us all to pieces, Geoff Johns fails to deliver. Instead what we get is a story that takes us from Point A to Point B in a rather anticlimactic fashion, playing fast and loose with logic as it does so. Somehow, Barry saving his mother thirty years ago was "like a bullet shattering a windshield," altering time in every direction, in ways that no one bothers to explain. When the Flash runs, it's not so much about traveling from one place (or time) to another, but rather just the act of going really fast makes him magically appear wherever the story needs him to be, whether it's on his mother's couch or at his cosmic treadmill (which apparently exists in empty space, outside of reality) at the precise moment when he needs to be there in order to stop himself from saving his mother's life and thereby destroying the world. I can deal with these leaps of logic, though. Comic book laws of physics are typically... creative, especially when it comes to time travel and alternate realities. The thing that really bugged me about this issue, that made me just now drop the rating from 2.5 to 2 Pixels (even lower than I rated Red Hood and the Outlaws 1), is this scene:

See, Geoff Johns realized that if Barry decided to sacrifice his mom, even in order to save the entire world, he wouldn't come across as a hero. Rather, he'd come across as a douche who decided his mom's life wasn't worth everyone else's. So Johns writes in this scene where Barry's mom herself makes the decision to die in order to save the world, so instead of being the victim of Barry's douchery she's a hero, right? Except that this scene more or less comes out of nowhere, as far as characterization is concerned. We've seen Barry's mom for what, a few pages in the first issue or two of the series? If she was going to be the hero of this series, then she needed to be a bigger part of it all along. We needed to get to know her so that we'd understand that she's the type of person who sacrifices herself to save the world. We needed to care about her so that we recognize what this sacrifice means to her. Not what it means to Barry. Because this woman has been in the background for most of this series (as most women have), this scene comes across instead as her recognizing that she's not as important as the big (male) heroes, Flash and Batman and Cyborg, so she might as well just get out of the way so they can have their happy world back.

Sorry, Mr. Johns, I generally like your writing, but this just doesn't work for me. You created a (female) supporting character simply as motivation for the (male) main character, then tried to convince me that she's the hero of the story when in fact you just didn't want to make the main character look like a complete asshole. Bzzt. Try again.

Also, is it just me, or does Batman have a total double standard when it comes to fellow heroes who have tried to rewrite reality and in the process have killed innocents? Remember how he didn't forgive Green Lantern for years? This time, Flash tells him, "You know what? I just tried to go back in time and save my mom, but instead I created this new reality where millions of people suffered and died needlessly." And Batman is all like, "No worries, bro, it's cool."
Admit it, Batman, you just don't like Hal. It has nothing to do with him having been Parallax.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day-And-Date: Teen Titans 1, Superman 1, Aquaman 1, Flash 1

This was a good week for comics. I enjoyed all four books I read and there wasn't any appalling hypersexualization of women in any of them. Good job, DC!

Teen Titans 1
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I was pretty hesitant about this book after reading last week's Red Hood and the Outlaws, but I was pleasantly surprised by Teen Titans. Which makes me happy, because these are some of my favorite characters. I absolutely love Tim Drake here, as the veteran teen superhero trying to work behind the scenes, causing problems for the bad guys by blogging and wiki-leaking classified information. This is true to the character I have known since I first started reading comics. Bart Allen as glory hound isn't exactly as he's been portrayed in the past (he comes across a little more like the Timmverse version of Wally West), but it's not antithetical to his character in the way that sex-without-love blowup doll Starfire is, and there is a great moment where Bart demonstrates at once the impulsiveness of his Mark Waid era and the encyclopedic knowledge of his Geoff Johns era:
And then there's Cassie as car thief. Honestly, this doesn't seem out of character at all to me. Back when John Byrne first introduced the character, she became Wonder Girl by "borrowing" Diana's wig, gauntlet, and winged sandals. The character has always been a thief.

The overarching concept of the book, meanwhile, is a winner. In a world where people have superpowers, teenagers who have superpowers and do stupid things with them (regardless of good intentions) would be a real problem. The idea of teen heroes banding together to protect a world that fears and hates them is very X-Men, but it's enough of a twist on the concept that it doesn't feel overly derivative and in fact feels true to the core of Teen Titans. From the Fab Five (or was it Four at the time?) teaming up to fight their possessed mentors to Raven seeking out the teen heroes because the adults wouldn't trust her, the Titans have always been about superpowered teens coming together because grown-ups just don't get them. Thank you, Scott Lobdell, for not screwing this up.

Superman 1
Writer: George Perez
Artist: Jesus Merino
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

I was impressed by how much bang this comic gives for my buck. Every page is packed with panels and every panel is packed with words. And then I remembered that George Perez wrote this, and (a) Perez comes from the old school where a 22-page comic should take more than five minutes to read, and (b) Perez likely writes as if he's going to be doing the art, and heaven knows he can pack a ton into a single page of art. I'm still digging Superman's new personality, which is a little toned down here compared to Action Comics, but that makes sense since this Superman is a few years older. He's still way more interesting than Superman has been in years.

Aquaman 1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

In true Geoff Johns fashion, this comic is all about how awesome Aquaman is. It gets all metatextual with everyone being like, "Aquaman is lame" and "Did you see those SNL skits where they make fun of Aquaman?" and Aquaman is all like, "I'm too badass to even acknowledge your mockery of me." Not much happens, really, except that some Evil Creatures escape from The Trench and start Eating People (not sure why I capitalized that, it just seemed appropriate), Aquaman stops some bad guys, doesn't eat lunch, then tells Mera he's decided to live in the surface world. He doesn't really explain why, so one can only assume it's to prove to all the haters that he's the badassest superhero around. He does explain, however, that he doesn't talk to fish because fish are too stupid to talk, and therefore he has no problem eating them. I kind of dig this, as it goes against the obvious. I wonder whether Wonder Woman eats birds?

The Flash 1
Creators: Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

This actually reads very much like a Geoff Johns-written comic, in a good way. You've got the character-defining bits of newly-revealed backstory, the off-beat sci-fi mystery, and the shocking last-page revelation. I'm not too bothered by the somewhat murky continuity, as all the necessary basics are here: Barry is the Flash, he's a CSI guy, he's kind of dating his coworker, and Iris West is a pushy reporter who will likely be the third corner of a love triangle. Also, not only has Barry stolen Wally's costume (a hybrid of his comics and animated costumes that actually looks pretty cool), but he also totally stole Wally's opening line:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shameless, Shameless Superman

The solicitation copy for the recently-digitized Superman 713 reads:
What could possibly make The Man of Steel decide to stop being Superman? Superboy and Supergirl catch up with him in Portland, Oregon, and they want answers!
It just as easily could have read:
What could possibly make The Man of Steel decide to undress in front of his teenaged girl cousin? Superboy and Supergirl don't want to know!

Really, he couldn't have changed out of his costume before meeting them? This is a trend I've noticed not only with comic book characters, but with fictional characters across various media: nobody has any sense of shame about casually undressing in front of others. Not that I think people should be ashamed of their bodies--I think it's kind of silly when guys make a big deal about changing under their towel when in a men's locker room--but in my experience most real people are not so cavalier about displaying their bodies for friends, family, and random strangers to see. So why do writers of fiction feel compelled to write characters who are so entirely without shame? (Except for Supergirl, who is clearly ashamed of her cousin.)

Or do I just know the wrong people? Because if there are men who look like Superman who are in the habit of casually undressing in front of their acquaintances, I want to be friends with these men. (And what straight man would not want to be friends with someone like Wonder Woman who sleeps nude and has no qualms about getting dressed in front of random strangers who magically appear in her bedroom?)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Digital Horizons: Bringing the Mountain to Mohammed

A few examples this week of comic book publishers bringing the mountain to Mohammed, digitally:

Graphicly a new comic book app on Facebook, which I think is a pretty cool idea. As the linked article points out, people spend a lot of time on Facebook anyway.

This week DC announced two TV tie-series, Fringe and Burn Notice, each of which will be offered only in digital format. Another case of bringing the mountain to Mohammed, as the target audience for these books doesn't necessarily go to the comic book shop, but certainly spends time online (who doesn't?).

Finally, publisher SLG has announced that they will no longer print monthly titles but will release them digitally instead. Even more so than with big publishers like DC and Marvel, I see digital as the future of independent comics--these publishers can't depend on the comic shop crowd to keep them alive, so again it makes most sense for them to bring their comics to the web, where potential readers can find them more easily. It seems there's precedent for digital monthlies increasing the sales of graphic novels, too, so this strengthens the industry overall. Also, I like SLG's digital price point, $0.99, as that allows for more of the mountain to get to Mohammed, who's used to spending that much for music downloads so three bucks is kind of steep.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Digital Video: Young Justice "Terror"

Young Justice s1e11: "Terror"
Air date: September 23, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

As I've come to expect from Young Justice, this episode was packed with guest-stars from the DCU: Hugo Strange, two Icicles, Killer Frost, Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze, that Brick guy from Judd Winick's Green Arrow, the Riddler, a handful of Justice Leaguers, and best of all, Amanda Waller. I don't say "best of all" because Waller is my favorite character or anything. Amanda Waller is an okay character who works well in certain types of stories--a story about villains trying to break out of Belle Reve being one such type of story. The "best of all" thing here is that Young Justice lets Amanda Waller be Amanda Waller, not Halle Berry:

Thank you, YJ, for recognizing that not everyone has to be skinny.

Apart from a faithful depiction of the Wall, this episode has a great infiltrating-the-bad-guys story with the same tension, character development, and suspense that this show has displayed in the previous ten episodes, and on top of  all that Superboy and Miss Martian finally kiss. This is not a coupling that I would have thought of, but it works. My only complaint is that this is the second episode in a row without Robin, Kid Flash, or Artemis. Here's hoping they return next week...

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Flashpoint Friday

This week's flash reviews:

Flashpoint: Project Superman 3
Does it make it better or worse for the woman in the refrigerator to be self-aware enough to recognize that she's a woman in a refrigerator?
Personally, I'm kind of bothered that Lois sees herself as "the girl" and not "the hero." (Or, y'know, both.)

Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance 3
This book should have come out two weeks earlier. One scene leads directly into Wonder Woman and the Furies 3, which came out last week (speaking as if I'd bought all these books on their initial release date), and another scene leads directly into Project Superman 3, which came out the same week as this, but with no indication that I should read one before the other. Yes, I can put the pieces together even when read out of chronological order, but one of the appeals of a collection of miniseries like this is the connections between them and how they all come together to tell a larger story than each one tells individually. A little more planning in the scheduling department could have made that aspect work just a little better.

Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost 3
I did not expect to see Max Mercury in this comic, nor many of the other references to Bart Allen's history. Sterling Gates clearly knows his Mark Waid. I would love to see a Gates-written Kid Flash ongoing. Also, Bart being the speedster to sacrifice himself in this universe-altering crisis? I didn't expect that. (Because, you know, he's alive in Teen Titans 1 next week.) Still, a nice touch.

Flashpoint: Hal Jordan 3
The end of this issue would make a great origin story for Carol Ferris, Green Lantern, who now has Hal Jordan as her very own woman in a refrigerator.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

B'dg, the Cannibal Green Lantern

We take a break from our regularly-scheduled programming to bring you some very disturbing news: You know B'dg, that cute alien chipmunk Green Lantern who replaced Ch'p, who was also a cute alien chipmunk Green Lantern, one of B'dg's own species? (This is an important point, that B'dg and Ch'p are the same species.) Well, B'dg stars in one of DC's Super Pets line of chapter books for kids, Super Hero Splash Down. The book starts out with a profile page about B'dg. Here it is:

Did you catch this part?

Yes, B'dg is a cannibal. And apparently one who likes roadkill, since Ch'p was run over by a yellow tractor in Green Lantern: Mosaic. Be warned, chipmunks of the world. And stay away from salsa.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day-And-Date: Batman 1, Nightwing 1, Red Hood & the Outlaws 1, Wonder Woman 1

Batman 1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I've been hearing a lot of good things about Scott Snyder's run on Detective and I recently read Gates of Gotham and enjoyed it, so I had high expectations for Batman 1. My expectations were met. This issue does what I'd expect a first issue to do--it introduces me to Batman and his world, including the setting, the villains, and the supporting cast--and it does all this while telling the overlapping stories of Batman quelling an Arkham riot with some unexpected help, Bruce Wayne's efforts to improve Gotham (reflecting a subplot from Batman & Robin 1), and a mysterious new killer that appears to be closer to Batman than he first suspects. Capullo's art is fun and dynamic, though I have to say I'm not crazy about his Dick Grayson, who looks about sixteen. I mean, I know Dick is short, but not a full head shorter than Bruce. And what, is Tim thirteen again?
Nonetheless, it's good to see the boys all together, bickering and all.

Nightwing 1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

This is good. It didn't blow me away, but it's good to see Dick as Nightwing again--or as he says, "finally me again." I like that Gotham City is as much a character in this story as it is in Batman 1 (though not surprising since Higgins co-wrote Gates of Gotham with Snyder), I like that Dick recognizes both the differences and similarities between him and Bruce, and I like that we're starting out with a story centered around the circus. Also, I'm glad to see that the red eyes are not a permanent thing, but just some kind of infrared thing he can turn off and on as needed:

Red Hood & the Outlaws 1
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Kenneth Rocafort & Blond
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Pixels

I had high hopes for this. I won't say my hopes were completely dashed to pieces, as there is some good to this issue: Jason and Roy work well together, they make sense as a team, and both characters are written more or less in character. There's a backstory hinted at, something to do with Jason Todd's past involvement with a secret society in the Himalayas, which I won't call good or bad because right now it's more confusing than anything--but potentially interesting, assuming it's explained soon. And the end of the issue tells us it will be:

Starfire's characterization, however, is horrible. It's established that Tamaraneans can't really tell humans apart and that they "have a terribly short attention span about all things Earth." Starfire doesn't even remember her former Titans teammates, or her ex-fiance, Dick Grayson.
(Also, who the hell is Dustin?) Worst of all, she tells Roy that for her making love has nothing to do with love. Apart from the fact that her seemingly empty brain and voracious sex drive make her into nothing more than a fanboy's wet dream come true, it's totally contrary to her character. Historically, Starfire has been driven above all by passion. Not by hormones, passion. If anything, she loves too easily and too fiercely. A Starfire who doesn't even remember Dick Grayson, who wants only sex without love, is not Starfire. Scott Lobdell has promised that even though the Teen Titans characters are being rebooted, they'll all be true to the core of the character. If Starfire is an indication of his idea of being true to the core of a character, then I'm scared to read next week's Teen Titans 1.

Wonder Woman 1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

This is a good Wonder Woman story, but like Nightwing, doesn't knock my socks off. Diana is at least fully recognizable as Diana, and I do like the reinterpretations of Greek mythology going on. True to Azzarello's promise that this would be a horror comic, the gods and creatures here are more Pan's Labrynth than George Perez's Wonder Woman. Azzarello and Chiang's Hermes, especially, strikes me as a unique interpretation, with blue skin and birds' feet.

Overall, one thing I'm liking about the New 52 is that all the stories feel fresh. There's very clearly an effort to write new stories, not to redo the same stories that have already been done a thousand times. That, at the very least, DC can count as a success.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ray

As I was reading DC's December 2011 solicitations yesterday, my heart jumped at the sight of The Ray #1. The Ray has long been one of my favorite characters, thanks to an awesome character design and a great, snarky-yet-hopeful personality. Priest's Ray series from the mid-90s was one of the best series of the decade, in my opinion. So I was excited to see the Ray showing up in the new DC Universe... until I realized it wasn't my Ray. Here's the solicitation copy:

THE RAY #1Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTIArt by JAMAL IGLE and RICH PERROTTACover by JAMAL IGLEOn sale DECEMBER 14 • 32 pg, 1 of 4, FC, $2.99 US • RATED TGet ready for a brand new Ray! Lucien Gates’s life is changed forever when he is struck by a mysterious beam of energy that turns him into a glowing gladiator – and being a human ray of light comes in handy when his city is suddenly under attack from giant, building-sized monsters. Unfortunately, light powers are less than handy in keeping his girlfriend happy!
And the cover:

It's not horrible, but it's not this:

I tend to be of the opinion that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but I also believe in giving new ideas a chance before I pass judgment. So I'm willing to try out this new Ray, even if the new series won't fill my nostalgia bucket the way a new series about Ray Terrill would, and even if the new guy does look like an old man in the cover image, despite the fact that he's supposed to be nineteen. With that spirit of trying to be open-minded, I read the interview with Gray and Palmiotti posted on Newsarama this afternoon and was encouraged by this:

Nrama: Will readers see his origin? Or how will you introduce him?
Gray: We wanted to mess with the origin story formula because so many superhero movies are centered squarely on that moment. How many times can you watch someone test out his or her powers and make goofy mistakes? How many times have we seen someone design a costume or screw up his or her first night on patrol? With The Ray we tried to take a different look at the origin story. We want The Ray to be fun and strange and very human mixed with incredible action sequences provided by the incredibly talented Jamal Igle.
Palmiotti: You just pick up the first issue and it has everything a superhero comic should have...the who , what and why of the character as well as the two things we always ask ourselves- what do they want and what do they fear. We answer all of these and then Jamal took what we wrote and made it even better.
As I've mentioned before, done-in-one issues work best for the digital comics medium, in my opinion. If I'm paying three bucks to download something, then I want a complete something, not part one of six. Gray and Palmiotti don't outright say they're doing single-issue stories, but their comments suggest to me that they're aiming to deliver a full story with issue one, rather than the beginning of a decompressed origin story. I hope that's the case. Either way, I look forward to what I hope is a return to superheroes being introduced in stories about superheroes, not fledgling superheroes going through the same old steps of the obligatory origin story. 

I'll definitely give the first issue a shot, and considering the creative team there's a good chance I'll like it. I'll let you know. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Incorporating into the DCnU

Today DC officially announced Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes, which I guess collects the remaining issues of Batman Incorporated that didn't make it to press before the New 52 relaunch. The fact that this was originally intended to come out pre-boot and is now coming out post-boot makes it an odd beast. On the one hand, it's meant to be something of a prelude to the upcoming New 52 version of the series, which Morrison is referring to as "season two." So obviously these stories are important to the new continuity, but at the same time they feature the pre-boot costume, and if I understand correctly, in the new continuity the new costume is the only one that ever existed--all costumes were changed retroactively. I know costume details are the sort of continuity thing that more rational people laugh at us continuity geeks for getting all hung up about, but... I don't know... it just hurts my head to think about. Possibly complicating things further, Morrison refers to Batman teaming up with Spoiler in this story. Is that just his way of referring to Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, or have they actually gone in and changed her to Spoiler in this story, so as not to confuse her with the new Batgirl? If she's Spoiler in this story in order to reflect the new continuity and we still have the costume from the old continuity, I'm pretty sure my head will explode.

Also, I suppose it's safe to assume this will be released digitally the same day as print? I'm not 100% clear on the plan for titles that aren't officially part of the New 52-verse...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Digital Horizons: Collections and Sales

This week Marvel announced that it will be releasing digital collections as opposed to just single issues. I approve. This makes sense for someone who's trying to catch up on backstory--you buy several issues all together and get them at a discount. I don't know anything about Marvel's app, but I hope they allow for bookmarking. If you're working your way through a 300-page collection, it would be nice to easily return to the place where you stopped.

Apparently Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1 broke digital sales records for Marvel. I'm not surprised. It would be interesting to be able to compare digital sales across companies and see whether UCSM or Justice League 1 sold more. My guess would be UCSM. Skitch Maillaro at Inside Pulse notes that UCSM 1 was available first thing in the morning, whereas DC waits until 2pm Eastern to release their same-day comics. I agree with Skitch that there's no real reason not to do this. Are there really people who are otherwise planning to buy print but will instead buy digital because they can get it a few hours earlier?

David Brothers at Comics Alliance takes a look at claims about digital sales--for example, Justice League 1 breaking digital sales records and now UCSM 1 doing the same--and points out that without numbers, it's just hype. He quotes Tom Spurgeon as saying it's basically "the 'I have a girlfriend in Canada' of sales analysis." This made me want to listen to my Avenue Q soundtrack again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Digital Video: Young Justice "Targets"

I don't pay for cable because I don't watch much TV, but just like every good superhero comics reader I have to watch my superhero TV shows, so I buy them via Amazon Instant Video (two bucks a piece, the same as a month-old digital comic!). This way I can watch them as soon as they come out (rather than waiting for the DVD release), and I own them so I can watch them over and over again as much as I want (I typically only watch an episode once, but my kids have no limit for how often they can watch, for example, "Mayhem of the Music Meister!"). I'm not crazy about the fact that I can't burn episodes I buy on Amazon to disc, but the fact that I can access my video library via my Blu-Ray player more or less makes the point moot.

At any rate, since these shows are based on comics and I get them in digital form, it seems appropriate that I review them here. So here goes...

Young Justice s1e10: "Targets"
Air date: September 16, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

My kids (an eight-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy) like Young Justice well enough, but they're really not the target audience. But then I'm not sure exactly who is. The show is clearly catering toward seasoned fanboys like me, who recognize Superboy and Miss Martian's Happy Harbor High School classmates Mal Duncan, Karen Beecher, Wendy Harris, and Marvin Harris, and their teacher Snapper Carr; and who know that the sexual tension between Cheshire and Red Arrow has history. It's in this relationship, with Cheshire flirting with the young archer, that it struck me how this show is caught between the worlds of animation for adults and cartoons for kids. While watching I wanted Roy and Jade to have a little fling and produce Lian like they did in the comics, but at the same time I know that's not going to happen in a show that's watched by children like my own. So the show is stuck in this place where they throw Easter eggs at us grown-ups but they don't quite let go of the pre-adolescent audience that will no doubt watch any cartoon about superheroes. I'm not sure this is a problem, just an interesting tension I observed today, a tension that can't be resolved any more than the sexual tension between Roy and Jade will be.

Also, I really dig how this show is making an obscure character like Sportsmaster a central part of the story. His claim in this episode of a spy in the ranks of Young Justice is of course a reference to Artemis, who is presumably his daughter if the show's continuity parallels that of the comics, and this makes me wonder whether Artemis's story will be one of the good daughter of a bad man trying to prove herself, or if she really is a spy and this is more of a "Judas Contract" kind of thing. I'm kind of hoping it's the latter, as I think that could make for a great story. Stay tuned to find out along with me...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Flashpoint Friday

Flash reviews for Flashpoint Friday:

Flashpoint: Abin Sur 3
It's like Zero Hour and Blackest Night remixed: Sinestro very nearly becomes Parallax, trying to destroy the universe in order to make a better one like Hal once did, and then Abin Sur becomes a White Lantern to save the Earth, like Sinestro once did.

Flashpoint: Legion of Doom 3
Well, Cyborg, to tell you the truth, yes, those pants do make your butt look big.
Also, Flashpoint Plastic Man grosses me out.

Flashpoint: The Outsider 3
It's one thing to say that Aquaman is a completely different person because he was taken from his father when he was a kid, but it's quite another to say that J'onn J'onzz, who was already an adult with a completely formed identity on Mars, would turn into a greedy, vengeful sadist because when he got to Earth he was treated like a science experiment. Sorry, I don't buy it. The character in this story is fundamentally not J'onn J'onzz.

Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies 3
I've seen complaints similar to my complaint about J'onn above, except in reference to Flashpoint Wonder Woman. I have to say, though, I like that this issue gets down to the core of who Diana is in any incarnation--the struggle between war and peace, warrior and diplomat.

After reading all these comics that end with "To be concluded in Flashpoint 5," I can see how that final chapter of the mega-story was set up to do a lot, so I'm not surprised by the many reviews out there saying it failed to meet those expectations. I'll see for myself in two weeks...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comixology Win: Reading My Blog

It has become clear to me that the people at Comixology* are reading my blog. Last Tuesday I posted about how lame it is that they digitally published the first ten parts of "Grounded" but not the rest, and that the same with the Booster Gold tie-ins to Flashpoint. I also mentioned that it's nice that they've been consistently releasing one issue of Gotham City Sirens every week for several months now. So guess what happened yesterday? The rest of "Grounded" was released, and Booster Gold too. And, for the first time in quite a while, there was no issue of Gotham City Sirens.

So... If I complain about something, they will fix it, and if I praise them for something, they will stop doing it.

So... Isn't it totally lame that Comixology has four issues of the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle run on Batman but not the whole run? It's absolutely ridiculous that they haven't digitized every single issue of Batman and Detective ever written by Grant and/or illustrated by Breyfogle. Gah! Get a life, Comixology.

And also... Isn't it awesome how new comics cost a full three bucks? Way to go, Comixology, keep it up!

...And now I will wait...

*It should be noted that when I say "Comixology**" I mean whoever it is that makes decisions about what shows up in Comixology's digital store. In the case of DC comics, it's most likely someone at DC's digital department, but those finer distinctions are beyond me.

**It might also be noted that the correct form is actually comiXology, but I've been doing it wrong since my first post and I'm not about to change now.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day-And-Date: Batman & Robin 1, Batwoman 1

Batman and Robin 1
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray
Release Date: September 14, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

In the first issue of Batman & Robin, Peter J. Tomasi establishes themes of generational bonds and the hope inspired by children, appropriate themes for a book about a father and son. He pulls this off without coming across sappy at all, in large part due to the fact that the son in this book, ten-year-old Damian Wayne, is a world-class asshole. Nonetheless, Batman seems to gain hope from his newfound relationship with his son, as evidenced by his desire to finally stop avenging his parents' deaths and to start honoring their lives. After seventy years of wallowing in adolescent angst, Batman is finally growing up. This rings true to me, as he's only now acting as a parent to his son, and nothing will force you to stop defining your life by your relationship with your parents like having children of your own. I also approve of Bruce's decision to apply his philanthropy toward improving Crime Alley, as I was thinking recently that if I were Batman, then Crime Alley would be the one part of Gotham that is crime-free. Wouldn't he put more energy into protecting the neighborhood where his parents died than any other part of the city? I'm glad to see Batman moving in that direction, and to see him expressing hope and even a touch of humor, as the grim and gritty avenger thing has been quite overdone by now.

Batwoman 1
Writers: W. Haden Blackman & J.H. Williams III
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Release Date: September 14, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

This comic is the reason I don't read comics on an iPad (apart from the fact that I don't own an iPad). How can you fully enjoy awesome page layouts like this when viewing single panels on a small screen?

Apart from beautiful comic art, this issue features flirting with Maggie Sawyer, Bette Kane taking on a new (hopefully temporary) identity, special guest stars from the D.E.O., a new villain based on the Latin American legend of La Llorona, and redheaded Jim Gordon. All around goodness that leaves me wanting more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Comixology Fail #3: Organization

Disclaimer the first: I have never used any of Comixology's mobile applications, only their web application. So my complaints are purely based on that limited experience. If their mobile applications are far superior to the web application, though, then consider that another fail. I'm sure I'm not their only customer who reads primarily on my laptop, so they need to put as much energy into making the PC customer's experience great as they presumably do the iPad customer's.

Disclaimer the second: I am about to talk about what I don't like about the organization options (hint: there aren't any) in the My Comics section of Comixology's web application, but there are in fact many things I do like. I like the visual display, for example, with a cover and logo for each series. I like that a little icon tells me how many issues in each series I own. I like that they recently stopped (for the most part) referring to series by volume number (e.g. Aquaman, Volume 13) and started referring to them by date range (e.g. Aquaman (2008-2009)). The date range is more meaningful than a volume number, especially now that DC has started all their series over with a new volume (I imagine this was the impetus for the change--Aquaman, Volume 14, is much less appealing to new readers than Aquaman (2011- )).

Now that we got all that positive crap out of the way, let's get to the purpose of all blogging, the rant: I hate hate hate that I have no control over how my comics are organized in my digital comics library. It's nice that the series are sorted by title, but what if I want to sort by date? By writer or artist? By character? By publisher, at the very least? I can't do any of this. I'd also like a way to link storylines that cross over from one series to another--the crossover is, after all, a staple of comics.

And why not playlists? I want to be able to group together pre-Flashpoint comics and post-Flashpoint comics. I want to be able to make a list of my favorites. I want to be able to group comics I'm reading just for fun and others I'm reading to review later and others I'm reading to expand my horizons. In short, I want to choose how my comics are organized, and Comixology doesn't let me do that.

But really what I want is to figure out why on earth Green Lantern: Mosaic #1, the first issue in a 1992 series featuring John Stewart, is listed as part of the "series" Parallax: Emerald Night, which is in reality a one-shot from 1996 featuring the death of Hal Jordan. Really?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Waiting for War -OR- How I Failed to Beat the System

Right about the time I started getting interested in digital comics this past spring, I noticed that new issues of all three Green Lantern series were being published digitally pretty regularly, about a month after print. These were series that I'd been trade-waiting anyway, so it made sense to switch to digital with them. Except I'd already pre-ordered the next Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps trades, so I needed to wait until those came out before I could start buying the subsequent issues digitally. While I waited, I started buying Emerald Warriors digitally since I hadn't pre-ordered any trades for that series yet. Then my Corps trade arrived in the mail, and I caught up with all the following Corps issues digitally, so that I was up to the "War of the Green Lanterns" prelude issues in both Corps and Emerald Warriors. I expected the Green Lantern: Brightest Day trade to arrive in June, which was also when the Green Lantern film would be in theaters, so I was kind of hoping there would be a half-off sale where I could get all the "War of the Green Lanterns" issues for a buck each.

So I waited.

The week the film was released Comixology did have a half-off "Green Lantern 101" sale, but it didn't include any issues as recent as the "War" storyline. My trade of Green Lantern: Brightest Day arrived, so now I was caught up to where I could start reading "War." But what if I bought all eleven or twelve issues of the storyline for two bucks a piece, only to find a week later that Comixology had a "War of the Green Lanterns" sale, just like they had a "Blackest Night" sale last year? I'd have wasted twelve bucks. I can't do that!

So I waited some more.

Then I started thinking maybe they were waiting until the War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath issues had been released, so they could include those in the big sale.

So I waited.

But those have now been in print for a while, and have yet to show up on Comixology, let alone be included in any such sale. And then I thought, maybe they'll put the "War of the Green Lanterns" storyline on sale right before the New 52's Green Lantern 1 comes out, you know, so readers can get caught up on the most recent history.

And so I waited.

But now the weekend before Green Lantern 1's release has come and gone, and instead of a "War of the Green Lanterns" sale, they had yet another "Batman 101" sale. Sigh.

So what do I do now? Obviously I have to read "War of the Green Lanterns" before I read Green Lantern 1. But I just know that the week I finally break down and buy the issues at two bucks a piece, they'll go on sale that weekend for half-price. Not to mention the fact that the Aftermath issues are still unavailable digitally, so I wouldn't be completely caught up anyway. So you know what? I'm going to boycott Green Lantern (and Corps and New Guardians) until Comixology has a "War of the Green Lanterns" sale. The hardcover collection goes on sale in November, and if I recall correctly, they had the "Blackest Night" digital sale around the time the collections came out. By then the New 52 debuts will be over a month old and so I'll save a few more dollars.

And so I will wait.

You will see, Comixology, I can be more stubborn than you. I will win this war.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Digital Horizons: Digital Comics Everywhere!

In digital comics news this week:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Digital Dollar Bin: Batman/Planetary: Night on Earth

Batman/Planetary: Night on Earth
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: John Cassaday
Release Date: June 25, 2003 (print), July 15, 2010 (digital)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I wasn't all that excited about this weekend's Batman 101 sale (going through Sunday night!) because I already own most of these comics in trade form, but I decided to check out the Batman/ Planetary crossover because a couple months ago I bought the JLA/Planetary crossover when it was on sale for $0.99 and I loved it. I've never read a single issue of Planetary but that didn't impede my enjoyment of either of the two crossovers. I loved how JLA/Planetary took more of an Amalgam Comics approach to the crossover, combining the two universes into one rather than doing a traditional crossover, so I wasn't disappointed by Batman/Planetary, which takes another slightly non-traditional take on the crossover concept, yet one that also has a parallel to the mid-90s DC/Marvel crossover that Amalgam Comics was spawned from: like DC vs. Marvel, Batman/Planetary also centers around a character who lives between universes. While Access was set up to be a superhero, though, John Black is more of a tragic figure, a man whose ability to slide between universes comes from a cruel experiment that killed his parents, and who can't stop himself from killing those around him as he sends parts of them to alternate universes or collides multiple versions of the same person into the same place.

Warren Ellis has fun with the concept, making references to 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths, allowing Planetary's Jakita Wagner to butt heads and egos with Batman, and best of all, giving John Cassaday the chance to have some fun himself by rendering several different versions of Batman. Apart from the basic John Cassaday Batman from the then-current DC Universe, Cassaday also faithfully portrays the Adam West version (whom Elijah Snow mistakes for a transvestite hooker),
the Dark Knight Returns version,
the Neal Adams version (in this Neal Adamsiest of poses),
the Bob Kane version,
and some kind of cool-looking futuristic Batman that I presume John Cassaday made up.
I'd like to read more about this Batman.

Apart from the fun of seeing multiple versions of Batman argue with Jakita and Elijah, this comic also offers a great character moment when Batman recognizes the similarity between his tragic past and John Black's, and offers Black advice on coping with the pain of losing one's parents. Overall a great comic, definitely worth a buck if you get a chance to pick it up before the sale ends tomorrow night, probably even worth whatever price it will be after that.

Now one of these days I need to actually read Planetary...

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Flashpoint Friday

Because I don't feel like writing full reviews, a sentence or two on each of this week's month-old Flashpoint tie-ins:

Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager 3
See, this is why I will not be buying the new Deathstroke series: No matter what version of reality he's in, Slade Wilson is a skeevy old man who sleeps with teenage girls. The fact that he's just finished boning a girl his daughter's age makes it uber-creepy when he says things like "Every bone in my body wants to take my daughter in my arms."

Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons 3
This picture made me wonder how much time Starfire spends waxing:
In the spirit of yesterday's post, I'm happy to say that Starfire is not the only one looking ridiculously sexy in this issue:
Yes, Deadman, yes it is. And a nice body to go with it too. Thank you, Fabrizio Fiorentino.

Flashpoint: Citizen Cold 3
Of all the deaths in Flashpoint, it's Wally West's that makes me the saddest, because even though I know it doesn't "count," it looks like this is the last we'll see of the character for a while.

Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown 3
Okay, Jeff Lemire, you've convinced me to give Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. a try. Damn you.

Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman 3
So will the unknown final fate of Mera's severed head be a major plot point in Flashpoint 5, or is this just a really strange throwaway line?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wonder Woman's Invisible Pants

One of the most talked-about changes of DC's New 52 is something that on the surface seems pretty inconsequential: Wonder Woman's pants (or lack thereof). After DC radically altered the character's costume last year for J. Michael Straczynski's "The Odyssey" storyline, giving the character full-length pants to replace the traditional bathing suit bottom, it appeared that the more permanent New 52 redesign was also going to feature long pants:

But then a couple of months after the first preview images were released and everyone was talking about Wonder Woman's pants, DC quietly replaced the original preview images with updated ones:

You'll have noticed the missing pants. My theory is that Wonder Woman's pants are made from the same material as her jet, and she's able to turn them invisible at will. Who wouldn't want that superpower?

Actually, I find the whole debate about Wonder Woman's pants fascinating. I can see either side from a feminist perspective: On the one hand, you can argue that the bathing suit look is a product of male creators objectifying the female form, making Wonder Woman into nothing more than a sex icon. On the other hand, you can argue that the pants are a product of male creators trying to desexualize the character because they feel threatened by a woman who embraces her sexuality. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Personally, I prefer the pants for aesthetic reasons--I think the costume looks good with pants--and for practical reasons--I know I wouldn't be comfortable fighting crime in a swimsuit.

But setting my own preferences aside, I really think that the only solution is to have Wonder Woman written and illustrated by female creators. Typically I'm not a believer that one must be a woman in order to write women, or that one must be Latino to write Latinos, or that one must be bisexual to write bisexuals. One must be an observer of human beings in order to write human beings convincingly, regardless of sex, gender, orientation, race, or nationality. But Wonder Woman is not just meant to be a woman; she is meant to be the woman. She's an Amazon ambassador to Man's World, the ultimate living ideal of womanhood. William Moulton Marston (yes, I know, a man) created her to be the ultimate hero for young girls to look up to. I just don't think the character works when she's interpreted as a man's idea of what the ideal woman should be. Gail Simone's run on Wonder Woman is by far the best run in recent years, mostly because Simone is a damn good writer, but also because Simone is one of the few female writers to tackle the character. By the same token, Amanda Conner's Power Girl is by far my favorite interpretation of the character, not only because Conner is a damn good artist, but also because when Conner draws P.G. looking ridiculously sexy, I know it's a woman embracing female sexuality, not a man drawing his fantasy girlfriend. Have Amanda Conner or any of the other great female comic artists out there redesign Wonder Woman's costume, and then her pants or lack thereof can honestly be claimed as a woman's expression of sexuality or practicality or whatever, and not as the object of the male gaze that it will inevitably be otherwise.

The other part of the solution would be to embrace the sexual objectification of male characters in comics. As Sonia Harris points out in this blog post, sexual objectification swings both ways when it comes to superheroes with perfect bodies dressed in very tight clothing. I think to truly make the argument that male characters are as much sex objects as female characters, though, we need to see more male characters with costumes like Namor's traditional nothing-but-a-Speedo look, and we need to see more male characters twisting their bodies into uncomfortable positions in order to thrust their crotches at the viewer, the way female characters do with their chests and rears. Heck, it would be nice if some (presumably straight male) artists would just stop drawing men who appear to be castratos, judging by the lack of bulge. When Power Boy showed up in Supergirl a few years back, I was thrilled to see the chest window in his costume, mirroring Power Girl's:
Wouldn't it be all the more awesome if his bulge had (and deserved) the same reputation Power Girl's bust does?

So I guess what I'm saying is that you straight men and lesbians can have your pantless Wonder Woman if that's what you want. Just give us gay men and straight women some equally sexy men to ogle in return.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day-And-Date: Action Comics 1, Batgirl 1, Justice League International 1, Stormwatch 1

Today I was so anxious to read all four comics I bought, I had a hard time deciding which to read first. (I ended up reading them in alphabetical order, unintentionally.) This is what Wednesdays should be like. I hope the New 52 continue to hold my interest even after they're no longer new.

Action Comics 1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Rags Morales & Richard Bryant
Release Date: September 7, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels
Definitely an action-packed issue deserving of its title. I'm impressed that Grant Morrison has managed to give Superman a personality makeover that somehow still feels true to the character. I suppose it's because Superman is still all about truth, justice, and the American way, but it's no longer the truth, justice, and the American way of a 1950s suburban America, as it has been for the past sixty years. Rather it's truth in the face of a corrupt system, justice for the underdog, and the American way of the average American struggling to get by. This interpretation feels like a return to the character's Depression-era roots and wholly 21st-century at the same time. So far I'm liking this new Superman.

Batgirl 1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Release Date: September 7, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels
This is a fun, upbeat comic, as you would expect from a comic written by Gail Simone and starring Barbara Gordon. Babs is back in action and enjoying it. This issue reassures readers that The Killing Joke did still happen and it remains an important part of the character's history, and it also tells us that some "miracle" has happened to allow Barbara to walk again, but it doesn't tell us what that miracle is, exactly. I hope it's explained before long, as this series really needs to move forward and so long as that mystery is unsolved then we readers will be stuck at "How did we get here?" I was also disappointed that we didn't see much reference to Barbara's time as Oracle--where are her computers, her hacking skills, her connections with everyone who's anyone in the superhero community? These aspects of the character need to be kept in order for this to feel like a move forward and not two steps backward. I do, however, like the new villain introduced in this issue, a man who flashes victims with the mirror under his trench coat, apparently making them see their sins before he kills them.

I was also shocked by this:
Has Jim Gordon been de-aged so much that he's a redhead again, or has he just started dyeing his hair? Inquiring minds want to know!

Justice League International 1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopestri
Release Date: September 7, 2011
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Pixels
I really want to like this comic, as it has several characters I like, it's by a writer who's written stuff I enjoyed in the past, it has a great artist, and it's the first Justice League International that is not composed mostly of white Americans, but several things just aren't working for me:
  • Andre Briggs, the guy who founded this League, comes off as Max Lord Lite.
  • I'm totally cool with Rocket Red speaking like a Russian stereotype because that's his shtick, but when Russia's U.N. representative also says things like "Da, da! Now I must give to you the fine cognac," it makes it seem like the writer just doesn't know how to write Russians any other way. 
  • I cannot get over the W on Booster Gold's collar. Why a W?
  • I like that Booster is leading this League, but otherwise the return to Booster as glory hog feels like a regression for the character. 
  • It's clear that none of these characters have been on a Justice League before, and that feels weird. I think it's more confusing that DC decided to do a soft reboot because at least if they'd done a hard reboot we'd know that everything is starting over from scratch. This way, I don't know who's met whom and who's done what before. As a result, the characters seem foreign.
  • For a first issue, this comic doesn't do a good job of introducing the characters. I know everyone's names, but I know very little about who they all are. What does Godiva do? What is August General in Iron's deal? I have no idea. 
I hope Jurgens wows me in the next couple of issues, because I really do want to like this comic.

Stormwatch 1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Miguel Angel Sepulveda
Release date: September 7, 2011
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Pixels
Wow. This comic did several things that Justice League International failed to do. First, it introduced each of the characters in such a way that I have a good idea who each of them is, without being super-familiar with these characters before reading the issue. There are a few moments that border on too expositiony, with characters explaining things that they would not likely explain in real life, but this didn't take away from my enjoyment at all. Second, Stormwatch has me interested in the conflict from the get-go. There's a sense that something very big is going down, and these characters are in the thick of it. Third, the cliffhanger actually left me hanging, wondering how Midnighter and Apollo are going to fit into the larger scheme of things. As an added bonus, Paul Cornell actually managed to pique my interest in the other New 52 series he's writing, Demon Knights. I have zero interest in medieval swords and sorcery, but there's a brief sequence that suggests a possible connection between Stormwatch and Demon Knights (is the connection that Etrigan's team of knights are really the first Stormwatch?), which just might be enough to get me to check out the latter.

After Superman: The Black Ring, Knight and Squire, and now Stormwatch, I haven't yet read a Paul Cornell book I didn't enjoy immensely. So maybe I'll give Demon Knights a try after all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Comixology Fail #2: Unpredictability

Disclaimer: I don't know whether this is a Comixology fail or a DC Comics fail, but either way the end result is the same for me, the average consumer. So I'm counting it as a Comixology fail.

On June 8th of this year, Superman 701-710, the first ten parts of "Grounded," were released on Comixology. I had been curious about the "Grounded" storyline, but not enough to buy the issues when they were first published (July 2010-April 2011). I had been planning to buy the trade, but it worked out to be cheaper to buy the issues digitally so that's what I decided to do. These weren't great comics, but I was interested in the story, especially once Chris Roberson took over, and I planned to buy the remaining chapters as they were released on Comixology. Except now it's September and Superman 711 has still not seen digital publication. Will it ever? I don't know.

A few other examples:

  • Every issue of Detective Comics from 838 to 870 is on Comixology, with 870 being released on June 22nd. I was really looking forward to the beginning of Scott Snyder's run with issue 871. I'm still looking forward to it.
  • The first two parts of J. Michael Straczynski's other aborted storyline, "The Odyssey," have been on Comixology since June 25th, but there's no sign of the rest of the story. 
  • All three Green Lantern titles seemed to be on a steady release schedule this spring, with the most recent issues consistently released digitally one month after publication--until Green Lantern 67, which happens to be the final chapter of the big summer event "War of the Green Lanterns." The issue was already delayed several weeks before print publication, and digital readers had to wait another month and a half after that. 
  • DC actually announced ahead of time that all Flashpoint tie-ins would be released digitally one month after publication. This has mostly been the case, but Flashpoint: Abin Sur 2 was released a month and a half after publication for no apparent reason, and the Booster Gold tie-ins simply haven't shown up after the first one
I'm not saying that Comixology needs to publish a schedule of their back issue releases two months in advance. It's actually kind of fun to check on Wednesday and see what new series are being added to the digital vault. But once they start digitizing a series, I'd like to see them continue, at least until they get to a logical stopping point. I'd like to see it work like it has for Gotham City Sirens: The first issue was released on March 30th, and a new issue has been released every week since then. It's fun to read the series this way, to experience an accelerated version of the original serial release. I look forward to a new issue of Gotham City Sirens every Wednesday, and I haven't been disappointed yet. 

So whoever it is at Comixology or DC who decides when and how back issues are released digitally, can you please get your act together? Variety is the spice of life, but predictability is the meat and potatoes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Digital Preservation

A thoughtful post on Collected Editions last week reassures readers that the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe is not gone forever, citing as evidence several DC characters who we once thought were long gone--like Barry Allen, Kara Zor-El, and Jason Todd--who eventually came back. Like them, the blogger posits, Wally West will also be back.

I agree that any characters discarded by the reboot will inevitably be back, but I don't see them as really "gone" now anyway. Maybe Wally West is not the current star of The Flash, but I can go back and read "Terminal Velocity" or "Rogue War" anytime I want to. I can read back issues of Birds of Prey to see Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and for that matter I can read back issues of Batgirl to see Stephanie Brown or Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. Back issues live forever.

And digital comics make that truer than ever. We're no longer limited to back issues that make sense as part of a trade collection. More and more of DC's back catalog is being added to Comixology every week, and apparently DC has plans to digitize everything. This week, on the same day Justice League 1 was released, DC also released digital back issues of JLA and Justice League of America that are likely no longer in continuity; issues of Legends of the DC Universe about Hal Jordan as the Spectre, which you'd think DC would want us to forget if they're trying to simplify things; and the entire Legion Lost miniseries, which may share a name with a New 52 title, but is about a Legion of Superheroes from a completely different timeline. Clearly, DC is not shying away from its history.

Apart from making it easier for readers to find stories about characters who are not featured in the new DC Universe, digital comics also give us another way to do what Collected Editions recommends: tell DC we still care about these characters. If you want to see Wally West in the present continuity, there's no better way to send this message to DC than to buy old comics featuring Wally West. Whether you do that by buying trades or by buying digital back issues of The Flash, the message will be delivered.

Wally West will be back, and even better, he's still with us now--in print and digitally.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Digital Horizons: New 52 Goes Live

A lot of talk this week about DC's New 52, and the accompanying same-day digital release plan. Time Out Chicago talked to several retailers to find out what they think about the potential threat digital comics pose. Based on this article at least, retailers seem for the most part unconcerned. One says, "If you’re a person who likes your comics digitally, you’re probably already getting them, for free, from pirate sites." A logical conclusion, and I hope for his sake that he's right, but anecdotal evidence makes me question the universal truth of his statement. I, for one, am one of those dreaded print comics readers who has now made the switch to digital (and would never think of pirating), and so is Scipio of The Absorbascon, and at least a couple of the readers who comment on his blog. Scipio is much less apologetic about this transition than I am, and honestly it makes me feel a little better to hear a former comic shop owner say this:
This is not a decision a former comic bookstore chain owner makes lightly. Stores that purvey entertainment "hard-copy" (e.g., video rental stores, bookstores, comic shops, computer game centers, record stores, video arcades, news stands) are, mildly put, not doing as well as they used to. The digitization of most forms of education/entertainment is a major coup for the accessibility of information of all types... but it's brick and mortar stores that are taking the blow. While many are making ingenious attempts at adaptation and leveraging of the new tech, the handwriting is on the wall. Or, perhaps, more accurately, on the screen of the touchpad. God has numbered the days of their reign and brought it to an end; it has been found wanting; its kingdom is divided and given to the Apps and the Netflix.  
On a more hopeful note, as far as the conventional direct market goes, another retailer notes in the Time Out article that "Record stores didn’t completely disappear [due to digital-music downloading], but the chain multimedia stores did. We’ll still have a place in the same way that Reckless Records does, despite iTunes."

In an article on, DC Digital SVP Hank Kanalz is quoted as saying, "What we heard anecdotally is that people have been coming into comic book stores and buying more titles and asking about digital delivery." Which is nice, but doesn't really mean anything. I mean, I offered anecdotal evidence above, but I'm a blogger whose decisions have very little impact, not an executive making decisions that potentially have a huge impact on the comics industry. Couldn't DC, you know, actually look at some real numbers or something in order to back up this decision? Or is it that the numbers wouldn't support their friendly-to-retailers stance, so they stick with the anecdotal evidence?

Even more interesting to me, though, is that the same article speaks of DC's "plans in motion to make all 75 years of the company’s publishing output available at some point." I haven't heard this plan explicitly stated before now, but I certainly hope that's their plan. They have a lot of good stuff in their back catalog that I'd love to see made available digitally. 

Despite whatever reservations I have, I will agree with Kanalz that this is "an exciting time for comics." It's certainly good news for digital comics that Justice League 1 has set digital records. I hope in the long run it is good not only for people like me who like to read comics digitally, but for the industry as a whole.