Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Living in a Platinum world

You know, I thought I was really reaching when I suggested a Jimmy Olsen backup story in a new, reformulated All Star.
Wizard Entertainment | [UPDATED] COUNTDOWN
PAUL DINI: I’d say our everyman character in the story is Jimmy Olsen, who to a great degree fits that bill within the DC Universe anyway. He has links to the Justice League, the Legion of Super-Heroes and the New Gods. And he is in the unique role of being not only a traveler through the mainstream DC Universe, but also becomes increasingly aware that he might have a bigger part to play in all this than he’s ever suspected. His quest to find out his role is one of the major driving points of Countdown.
Jimmy is going to be Countdown's Ralph Dibny. It's going to be really confusing if both stretching redheads in the DCU grow beards. Is Jimmy even old enough to grow a beard? Or is that part of his Quest?

Wait. "He has links to...the Legion of Super-Heroes..."? He does? Even now, after multiple reboots? Can Arm Fall Off Boy be far behind?

Or maybe Jimmy loses an arm in a silly-putty-related accident, and Professor Potter searches for a way to enable Jimmy to grow the arm back, like a lizard, but instead reawakens the latent Giant Turtle Boy!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rethinking All-Star

Here's an idea.

Cancel All-Star Superman and All-Star BatmanAndRobinTheBoyWonder.

Restart as All-Star. Same format as Tales of the Unexpected, call it 36 story pages for $4.00. (Let's dispose of that $3.95 crap, can we?) Make it bi-monthly.

12 pages of Morrison/Quitely Superman, 12 pages of Miller/Lee Batman. You think maybe each team could actually manage six pages per month?

The other 12 pages to contain stand-alone stories, rotating creators and characters: Could be anything. Jim Gordon by Darwyn Cooke. Jimmy Olsen by Barry Kitson. Booster Gold by Kevin Maguire. Plastic Man by Kyle Baker. OMAC by Rich Corben. Hawkman by Joe Kubert. Go wild. Whenever one of your regular Big Guns misses an issue, toss in another standalone. Readers will be hoping they miss.

If it works -- and how can it not? -- don't make it monthly. Fill the odd months with a second bi-monthly "All-Star" title, Sensation, featuring Adam Hughes' Wonder Woman and Johns/Jones Batgirl. Plus Black Canary by Howard Chaykin. Power Girl by Amanda Conner. The new Red Bee by Ed Benes. Manhunter. Cyclone and the Red Tornado. The Bulleteer.

It's a license to print money.

“Ever had the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

That's how the Fortress Keeper at Fortress of Fortitude opens this week's comics overview. Good question. Let me think.

Many years ago, back when I first started reading comics, they contained up to three separate stories each. With rare exceptions, it didn't matter in what order you read them: Each stood alone, and told you the essentials you needed to know about each character involved (even the regular characters like Superman, whom one would think the average comic reader knew about).

At the time, a title was in trouble if it sold less than a hundred thousand copies per issue. And since each comic contained a fine-print Statement of Ownership from its publisher once each year, we could tell how well it was selling.

Soon readers became sufficiently sophisticated to understand the concept of an "inventory story". It became necessary to explain this when storylines began to sprawl across months or years of a title's life. Occasionally a story would appear that ignored the ongoing threads, often by a different artist's hand. Marvel, as usual, made a joke of this and let the readers in on it, via references to the "Dreaded Deadline Doom."

The underlying assumption that made the joke work was that the Schedule Is The Schedule, and on the third Tuesday of the month, by God and Mort Weisinger there was going to be a new issue of Action Comics on the stands. That comic not being there simply wasn't an option. Those hundred-thousand readers would buy something else, perhaps some other publisher's product, and that was unacceptable.

Flash forward to the 21st century. Thirty thousand circulation is a top-of-the-line title. All-Star Batman's publication frequency has become a joke, as Superman-Batman's and Supergirl's were before it. Marvel has delayed the publication of its entire line, including an anniversary issue of its first flagship title, Fantastic Four, because Civil War is running late.

But inventory stories cannot be used because all stories (with rare exceptions) are now serialized. Instead we have situations like Action Comics and Wonder Woman (and Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk), where hopelessly-late story arcs are simply abandoned. Maybe we'll get back to them: Maybe we won't.

Complete story in 1967: four to six cents. Sometimes twelve.
Complete story in 2007: eighteen dollars. If they finish it.

Stories that begin and end. That's what I miss.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

Over on Fark, they have a recurring comment whenever two similar things happen, referring to the old wives' tale about bad things coming in threes, that "the trifecta is now in play". Sometimes you don't realize a trifecta is in play until it's over, at which time it becomes obvious.

Today's trifecta: Marvel Comics has no idea why anyone reads Spider-Man.

First incident: Trouble, a five-part 2003 miniseries that may or may not be in continuity. It was probably intended as the first of a new line of comics aimed at girls. It didn't look like anything else on the stands: It even had variant photographic covers intended to resemble paperback teen romances, but they looked more like Lolita to me. Had the series been better received, the Spider-Man connection probably would have been better publicized: One can read the comic and enjoy it (if one does enjoy it, which apparently few readers did) while knowing nothing of it. As it is, it's one of those Mopee moments that the publisher probably wishes we'd forget about.

In Trouble, it's established that Aunt May actually is Peter Parker's biological mother. See the blonde on the cover? That's her, the tramp getting ready to sleep with her best friend's boyfriend, Richard Parker.

Yes, this mini contains the never-before-revealed conception of Peter Parker.

Second incident: Amazing Spider-Man #509-514, the notorious "Sins Past" storyline of 2005. Peter, and Spider-Man, are separately being stalked by a couple who, it is revealed, are the adult children of Gwen Stacy. Writer J Michael Straczynski originally intended that Peter Parker would be their father, but Marvel editorial thought that having adult children would make Peter "too old" for his readers, so a workaround was substituted: The children are still Gwen's, but their father is Norman (the Green Goblin) Osborn.

I would have thought that the creep factor involved here (Norman is the father of one of Peter's and Gwen's friends', and Gwen was still a teenager at the time) would be far worse than Pete being a couple of years older than we thought he was, but go figure.

In flashback, this encounter is shown on-panel. I've spared you that.

Third Incident: Spider-Man: Reign, a current miniseries set in Peter Parker's old age, intended to be an "homage" to The Dark Knight Returns. Everyone Peter knows and loves is dead. In the course of a battle with the reanimated corpse of Mary Jane Watson Parker...

Even in comic books, some premises are so bizarre that they don't fully register the first time, so allow me to repeat:

In the course of a battle with the reanimated corpse of Mary Jane Watson Parker, Peter exposits:
Oh God, I'm sorry! The doctors didn't understand how it happened! How you had been poisoned by radioactivity! How your body slowly became riddled with cancer! I did. I was... I am filled with radioactive blood. And not just blood. Every fluid. Touching me... loving me... Loving me killed you!

Like a spider, crawling up inside your body and laying a thousand eggs of cancer... I killed you.
Spider-Man, in other words, has radioactive sperm.

Anyone want to bet they're going to time the release of the trade paperback collection of this mini to coincide with the release of a certain blockbuster motion picture?