Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I’m excited. Are you excited? I’m excited.
I’m generally more of a “wait for the trade” guy. And then I’m a “Check to see the library is ALSO getting the trade” guy, and if so I’m a “Not buy the comic” guy. But my LCS gave me a checklist, and I was helpless to resist – I’m buying a plethora of the DC # 1s. For those of you who are interested, the ones I’m getting will be marked with. BUYING THE # 1 (issue), or, rarely, Buying in Hardcover or Straight to Pull List. Note: It might help to have CBR’S list of all the 52 titles open in another browser. I’m already at 4000 words, so I’m not rattling off creative teams of giving background details. K?
1) This level of excitement is rare for me – I’ve read a lot of comics, and I’m just a little bit blasé about stuff that isn’t Infinite Kung Fu or King City. In geek terms, I’m the heroin addict who has to shoot up smack-dab in the eyeball or the sex addict who can’t get off without a team of Swedish Acrobats and a cauldron full of I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT BUTTER. I do read most of the DC and Marvel lines, and I don’t feel like it’s a waste of my time – but I also tend to forget most of the plot points and stuff within a couple days. Still, a line wide fresh slate reboot? That’s kind of a big deal!
2) I’m a huge sucker for # 1 issues anyway. I’m looking for new! different! exciting! And while number one issues don’t mean quite what they used to in this relaunch-happy era, a number one issue still says, to me, “Hey, we’re doing this new! different! exciting! thing.” (It’s possible I’m an easy Mark. NPI.)
3) A lot of folks online dismiss the renumbering as a cheap stunt. They’re right. But here’s the thing… Comics are ALL ABOUT cheap stunts, and they always have been. There was the “enhanced cover” boom of the ’90s. There was that three month period in the ’50s where everyone launched a bunch of 3D titles, complete with glasses. In the ’60s, DC used to AVOID renumbering to save money, which means that comics went from
in the space of a couple issues. At least the CURRENT DC relaunch isn’t scarring a bunch of Robby Reed fans for life by bringing in an EC-trained editor. So the new 52 is a stunt. But, dammit, gimmicks and stunts are part of a grand old tradition in comics, and this is a huge-scale, Epic stunt on an unprecedented level, and THAT catches my interest. If you’re gonna go gimmick, go big!
4) And it’s such a DC move. The thing I like about DC is this “Let’s throw crap at the wall and see what sticks” attitude, that Marvel or even Fantagraphics don’t seem to have. “Today let’s start a manga line!” That didn’t work? Fuggit! How ’bout a graphic novel line aimed at teenage girls? That went tits up? Let’s renumber all our titles from # 1! Hooray!” And I think it was Tucker Stone who said that this chaos can, occasionally, lead to great work that doesn’t read like anything ELSE DC is publishing – Like WATCHMEN in ’86, or STUCK RUBBER BABY in the mid-nineties. And, speaking as an interested historical observer of comics as much as a fan, if this causes the collapse of the American comic market… Well, hell. That’ll be really interesting. (And I really dug the Minx line. Great books all ’round.)
5) J. Caleb Mozzocco is right, of course – There doesn’t seem to be a heck of a lot of new talent here. If I were relaunching all my comics, I’d want some jaw-dropping exclusives, all Alan Moore on Superman or Stephen King writing Batman then AT LEAST John Cassaddy drawing Green Lantern. But mostly the creative teams announced for the relaunch are the same guys and (rarely) gals who have been working for DC ANYWAY, plus some folks who were working for Marvel a decade or two ago.
6) But… here’s the crux of why I’m geeked. The new line seems to be about letting the creators CREATE. It feels a lot less “Paul Dini! Peter Tomasai! You have to tie your Batman comics in with Grant Morrison’s, because Grant Morrison is the BOSS OF BATMAN! You see what he does, and work around that. What? You want to use the Bruce Wayne Batman? HELL NO! You are not THE BOSS OF BATMAN, and your work has to tie into what the BOSS OF BATMAN says. And then connect to Super-Crisis-Turbo-Crisis-Summer-Event” Meanwhile, Grant Morrison’s over in Scotland doin’ his thing and not giving a crap. All I want from my comics is a lack of coordination. Give the creators some freedom, see what they come up with. Like Roy Thomas or Bill Jemas era Marvel. And it seems like the relaunch is catering to my tastes. Although the recent Wonder Woman related interview on CBR’s front page said that this will be a “more interconnected DCU.” So. @#$%.
7) And DC is going same day digital, too, I guess. There’s a running theme in 52-commentary that this is the REALLY BIG news here, and the relaunch was obviously designed to give new readers using EYEPADS and other pieces of dystopian future technology I don’t claim to understand an easy place to start buying. So points for business acumen. But I’m an obsolete dinosaur paper guy, and I couldn’t even finish reading my illegal download of Sugar and Spike. And, really, the reason that the digital thing isn’t huge news is that NOBODY KNOWS what effect this will have – Maybe the whole digital initiative will go under in six months, maybe our children-to-come won’t know what “paper” is. Will DC save comics? Or DESTROY them?
8 Counterpoint: On the other hand. DC has been getting it’s ass kicked by Marvel in the superhero comics market throughout the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, aughts, and last year. And, OH MY GOD I”M GETTING A PSYCHIC FLASH…. After the hype dies down, DC will CONTINUE TO GET IT”S ASS KICKED IN THE DIRECT MARKET. Conversely, according to bookscan, DC’s bookstore sales are more than triple Marvel’s bookstore sales. In the floppy comic race, Marvel wins by 25 to 25 percent. In bookstores, DC wins by 200%. So I would have expected a few Vertigo/bookstore collection titles thrown in with the superhero 52. Because that’s what DC’s good at, and that’s where they’re winning. If you’re a DC exec and you get one trade selling 20% of Watchmen numbers, you’re eating gold plated filet mignon forever. Although a monthly Astro City title with a new # 1 is a good place to start.
9) So how does the relaunch affect my pull list? Well, as of right now I’m buying… lemme see here, carry the three…. exactly zero “DC Universe” titles in single issues. I’m buying BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD in singles. SCALPED and SWEET TOOTH in trades, and a heck of a lot of random reprints: I would be buying WONDER WOMAN CHRONICLES, SHADE: THE CHANGING MAN and HITMAN in trades, but I b’lieve DC stopped producing all of them. Theoretically I’m buying BATWOMAN in hardcover, but lately there’s been no BATWOMAN to buy. And I’m getting ‘proximately 12 of the “New 52″ at least for the first issue. That’s an infinity percent increase!
10) So what am I most looking forward too? Batwoman. Because the last series, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by J.H. Williams IIIOhgodit’s so beautiful was everything I want from superhero comic. On the other hand, saying Batwoman is almost a cheat. J. H. Williams could draw the New Oxford Scratch ‘n Sniff Annotated Guide to Rat Feces: The Graphic Novel and I’d be all “It’s so great. IT”S SO GREAT! It’s everything I wanted from comics ever! I never knew that mouse crap could be so beautiful and soul stirring!” Heck, I stuck with Promethea through the incredibly boring years, and I drop titles like *finger snap.* * (Like I did with all the DCU titles up ’till now.) So I’m Buying in Hardcover.
11) JLA: Dark, despite the stoopid cheap Marvel knock-off name, is # 2 on my most wanted list, and is going Straight to Pull List. (I’ve got commitment issues. I’m fine with hooking up with Love and Rockets every year-or-so, but EVERY MONTH? I’m a free bird baby! I cans’t be tied down!) But I’ve been reading Milligan’s SHADE THE CHANGING MAN in trades and – Well, if every comic was a superhero love story about the secret psychedelic history of America, I’d be a happy man. So if this is anywhere close to as good as what Milligan was doing last time at bat, it should be spectacular. Straight to Pull List.
12) Also. This is a DC book with John Constantine in it. I like the character. But it’s very rare that his solo title, despite the breathtaking talent often assigned to HELLBLAZER, has done much for me. But after reading Alan Moore’s TWILIGHT OF THE SUPERHEROES pitch and reading Cheeks the Toy Wonder’s plea for John Constantine to join the Justice League I’m completely on board with the idea of John Constantine being forced, kicking, grumbling and swearing to stand next to Superman and act like a goddamn hero.
13) Speaking a big gree: I’m not getting the Swamp Thing relaunch, but I’m glad to have him Swampy back pallin’ around with the capes-and-tights crowd as well. If Bernie Wrightson, Alan Moore, and Bob freakin’ Haney all said it was okay for Swamp Thing to hang out with Batman, then it’s okay for Swamp Thing to hang out with Batman. The last few years of DC management are just wrong, that’s all.
14) And speaking of the Batman titles. I’m writing this in the library. I have this
cover on my screen, and the people around me are giving me dirty “is this guy a psychopervert?” looks. And they are absolutely right to do so, So screw you, Batman titles. Instead of buying you, I’m going to sit here and complain for ten responses.
15) Complaint one: Did anyone read Peter Tomasi’s THE LIGHT BRIGADE? God. And damn that was a great, great comic. Can we like draw up a petition to get THAT GUY back?
16) Complaint Two: Damian. Here’s the thing about Robin: He’s the point of view character. He’s the audience gateway into Batman’s world. And he’s the little shrimp that makes Batman look awesome. I’m pro jerkass Robin – “jerkass” can still be relatable, and changing the dynamic can brings a fresh twist to the traditional Bats and Boy Wonder relationship. But: When you have your Robin raised by ninja assassins, you lose a lot of the reader identification possibilities. Not many of us were circus brats, but I’m betting there’s at least a hundred of you out there who travelled around a lot as kids and were raised by two loving parents. To be relatable your character needs to be at least sort of grounded, and Damien just doesn’t do that for me, and he doesn’t work as a POV character because of it. Hopefully they either retcon the crap out of his backstory or get rid of him altogether.
17) And while we’re bitchin’ – Oh my God, I am SO with the pro-Oracle lobby. What’s Batgirl‘s origin/motivation? She likes Batman and she plays superhero dress-up. What’s Oracle’s motivation? She faces down incredible trauma and uses it to make herself into a better hero. It’s one of the most effective origins in comics, IMO, and it’s coupled with a damn-near completely original superhero MO. And were losing it to regress to a character that was already a second try at a derivative character. Pass.
18) Not that I’m surprised, mind you. Superheroes tend to revert to their most “iconic” or commonly known variants. Green Lantern reverts to Hal Jordan. Aquaman reverts to the superfriends-y look. To the general population Batgirl is Yvonne Craig or the chick from the animated series. Still, pattern recognition doesn’t do much to divert my annoyance.
19) Predictions 1: De-Oracling Babs Gordon tears the guts out of BIRDS OF PREY. The relaunch will last less than 15 issues.
20) Prediction 2: Similarly, and I’ll lay money on this. Dick Grayson back as Robin within 15 years. (I know, I don’t like it either. But the pattern is obvious.)
21) While I’m personally overjoyed we didn’t have to suffer through BATGIRL REBIRTH, FLASH REBIRTH, GREEN LANTERN REBIRTH, and for all I know TOPO REBIRTH all sold through the roof. Not to backdoor editorialize, but DC sold a metric #$%^ton of comics based on regressive resurrections. Just dumpin’ Barbara/Batgirl in a new # 1 as part of the relaunch feels like a huge missed opportunity,
22) Speaking of. I haven’t read FLASHPOINT. And I thought that, as a pure narrative, CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS was fairly terrible
22A) Okay, among other things: COIE was, at it’s heart, a story about a girl torn between two fathers with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. That’s a fine, FINE idea for an event comic – cosmic, but humanized. But the effect is completely ruined by making all three of the triad personality-less cyphers. Has anybody cared at all about Harbinger for 20 years?
22 Resume) BUT Crisis had this huge, Epic, worlds-live, worlds-die, George Perez draws every-character-ever feel, and if most fans liked it, and felt like it was an appropriate sendoff to a huge fictional universe. Is anyone gonna say the same about Flashpoint, which is an “imaginary story” which doesn’t even feature the current version of Kid Flash, of Batgirl, of Superman? (Honestly, I don’t know, ’cause I haven’t read it. I’ll probably like it better than COIE. But I’ve read reviews, and I’m speculating “no.”)
23) The lack of Rebirths I can forgive, but where are the endings? Being all meta and sad in current comics isn’t cutting it for me – I wanna see Jeff Lemire take a swing at a 2011 version of “WJATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?” Why isn’t Neil Gaiman writing “Last Days of the Batman?” (Again.) Why is there no 100 page Last Days of the JLA special? story EVER? Think how much that would sell. Does DC hate money THAT much? Are they terrified of building a little lead time so Mister Terrific doesn’t have to switch artists three times in three issues?
24) But it’s not MY company, so I’m still excited. I’m digging a lot of the new concepts. The Batman of the Congo? Sure, sign me up! So I’m BUYING THE #1 of Batwing but keeping my expectations low based on the creative team.
25) In tangential news: I’m a little sad to see Superman/Batman go. The whole series had a cheerful “Let’s throw in everything and the Creeper” approach which made it, almost invariably, a fun read. So I’m sad to see that go.
26) Segue to the Superman books. I can’t fault his Wonder Woman, so I’m keeping an eye on – but not buying- George Perez’s Superman. Supergirl could be okay… But, honestly, folks, I’ve barely enjoyed ANYTHING Supergirl since her late ’50s and early ’60s stories, where Superman was all “Okay, Supergirl, I’m too darned busy to raise you so I’m sticking you in an orphanage. I owe everything to my foster parents, but I think you’d be better off wasting away, unwanted and lonely. On the upside, you get to be Supergirl! On the downside, you’re not allowed to tell anyone you exist, and must toil away for the good of mankind for NOTHING and you don’t even have parents to raise you like I did! (P.S. I’m kind of a dick.)” I guess I just need my Supergirl staggeringly depressing. Sorry.
27) Aaaaaannnnd Action Comics. Let’s see: I really liked Rags Morales stuff on HAWKMAN. And I’m a big ‘ol Grant Morrison fan. But I didn’t care much for All Star Superman. To quote The Mutt, if “Felt like I was walking into the wrong church.” And I did Quitely more when he draws backgrounds. And a whole host of other things. But here’s a take on the Siegel and Shuster Superman? (IRONY!) MY Superman? (Granted, My Superman is from generations before I was born. Rote childhood nostalgia is for the stupid and the boring.) Buying issues # 1.
28) And, really, I don’t want to let shit the author says bother me, and mostly I think that craft is all that matters, but…. Geez, HOW many times has Grant Morrison said he was gonna retire from mainstream comics? Twice? Three times? More? And am I wrong in reading into these announcements the supposition that superhero books are a highly limited form of expression that can only be taken so far? Here *I* am writing about them, so I’m in no position to judge but I care ever-so-deeply about Grant Morrison’s image. So here’s my advice: dude. If you want to cast yourself as a world-shaking, sigil-casting shaman who revives the dead with magic masturbation spells, (A) you have cojones the size of a small planet congrats, and (B) you can’t be timid. Stops ‘n starts, false promises, second-guessing : You can do that shit if you’re a Woody Allen type, but they simply don’t work with the image you’re trying to weave. But, more importantly, there’s a general critical consensus that you’re the best superhero writer of your generation. (I agree.) You’ve got nowhere to go but down. You wanna turn into Chris Claremont or something? Superhero comics will be poorer for your loss, but – and I say this as a lifetime fan – screw ‘em! Let someone else take up the challenge of being the best. Go out on a high note! Side note: I read (and enjoyed) SuperGods, Grant Morrison’s recent memoir-and-superhero history. Unless I misremember, he flat out says he’s writing superhero books for the money. I’m not sure if this makes it better or worse.
29) I liked the Weisinger Superboy, and I really liked the Kessel/Grummet Superboy. But the new version feels like a n unholy melange of both to me, so it’s just a tad hard for me to care, regardless of the creative team. Sorry guys. Maybe I’ll see you over in Teen Titans, and….
31) Also. both Superboy and Teen Titans (Young Justice? If I check the title I have to look at the picture again!) are both written by Scott Lobdell. That’s not a sure sign of quality, at least in my neck of the woods. Here’s one more thing that’s making me nervous about the relaunch – See, Kelly Sue DeConnick was asked to pitch for the DC relaunch, and she basically said she didn’t have time to do something good. DC wanted a pitch, and a first issue script, almost instantly. So I’m wondering if some of the new DC titles favor people who are good at PITCHING rather than people who are good at writing. Ms. DeConnick’s OSBORN mini-series was better than anything I’ve ever read from Scott Lobdell (and several of the other 52 writers) I’d like a little reassurance that DC isn’t favoring the organized and the fast creator over the potentially great creator.
32) And, hey, Rob Liefeld’s career has come full circle – from Hawk and Dove we come, to Hawk and Dove we return. I say this with absolutely no malice. Given (A) the way the internet responds to Rob Liefeld and (B) the very nature of my soul it’s impossible for me to bag on the guy. Unless somebody does something REALLY wrong – like #$%^&&* their Grandmother wrong – it’s just not in my nature to join internet dog-packs. To be the kind of man that I want to be in this world, I have to defend Rob Liefeld. That’s the way of it. But, honestly, I do kind of like the guy’s work. I always get the sense that he loves what he’s doing and I find an almost palpable sense of enjoyment in his stuff. This does not make up for a lack of technical proficiency – They’re not mutually exclusive. I’d rather have both. but given a binary choice I’d rather have fun and flawed than technically perfect and soulless. I’m not buying this with, like, money or anything, but I’m kinda glad it exists. And there are worse looking titles, like….
I grew up reading the SUICIDE SQUAD and have nothing but the utmost respect for all those who came before me. But I feel the world has changed and people want even their fantasy to have more reality to it. Look at James Bond’s Casino Royale. It was a new Bond for a new generation. Harder, smarter, less cheese. That’s what we’re doing with SUICIDE SQUAD. If there really was an organization that used Super Villains for Black Ops Operations, how would that really look? How would they be treated?
He goes on to describe his own version as ‘kick ass.” Shockingly, it seems the interview was pulled, or at least I can’t find it anywhere.
34) Speaking of huge mistakes – MightyGodKing nailed it. The integration of the Wildstorm titles into the DCU is a huge mistake. The Wildstorm material had a very specific tone – It’s a dog universe with attitude. It’s edgy, it’s “in your face.” You’ve heard the expression “let’s get busy”? Well, this is a dog universe who gets “biz-zay!” Consistently and thoroughly.
35) Basically: The best known and most popular non-Alan Moore Wildstorm material is strongly laced with charicturistic parody – The POINT of this stuff is that it’s completely different than stodgy old DC, and that simply won’t work when contrasted against canonical stories about how awesome Superman is. I really feel for poor Paul Cornell having to write Stormwatch.
36) AND ANOTHER THING: I get the logic, but that’s a crappy, passive name for a superhero book. What, exactly, was wrong with the AUTHORITY.
37) And then there’s Voodoo, which Ron Marz pitched just so he can say he did something better than Alan Moore.
38) Speaking of Paul Cornell, though, Demon Knights sounds EXACTLY like the kinda thing I like. Anytime you have “B-List superheroes in exotic settings I’m on board, and Cornells’ CAPTAIN BRITAIN and M-13 might be the absolute best of the (admittedly small) genre. I’m slightly afraid the book will be all pretty pictures and low content, but I like pretty picture too. Straight to Pull List.
39) Y’know… I don’t want to be too snarky – There were a bunch of Wildstorm books that I like. Some of them weren’t even written by Alan Moore. These were, primarily, the books that didn’t FEEL like Wildstorm books like WELCOME TO TRANQUILTY and MISTER MAJESTIC. (And I did a little dance when the Authority beat “God.” I’m not completely heartless.) But by the end I’d felt that the Wildstorm Universe had said all it had to say, and I was hoping it would turn into a home for creator-owned genre projects that didn’t fit in at Vertigo, like the super-spiffy Mysterius the Unfathomable.)
40) Dc’s also continuing to integrate the Milestone line, and this is stuff that I *do* care about, and stuff that I *am* happy to see continue. There’s a Static book which… could…. possibly…. maybe be good? In general the Milestone books were more humanistic and character driven than the Wildstorm comics, more concerned with telling stories about people than being NOT DC. So in theory they might integrate better.
41) In practice, though, the best CAPTAIN MARVEL, PLASTIC MAN, and SPIRIT stories are STILL from the ’40s and ’50s. I don’t have a lot of hope. Still, I’m getting Static # 1.
42) But occasionally integration works. The Question and Blue Beetle did better at DC than they did at Charlton, and I’ve heard the Blackhawks had a great run under Evanier and Speigle. (I’ve read one issue.) So…. so…. mmmmmaaaaayyyyyyyybe.
43) SEGUE! Here’s what I want from a Sgt. Rock comic. 1) Sgt. Rock punches some dirty Nazis. 2) Sgt. Rock punches some giant dirty Nazis. 3) Sgt. Rock shoots some other Nazis with a machine gun. 4) Sgt. Rock punches a bear. 5) SGT. Rock punches a giant freaking dirty bear that is a secret Nazi spy and HELL YEAH ROBERT KANIGHER! There is right and there is wrong in this world. Anything that doesn’t follow my five point Sgt. Rock writing system is wrong. A similar system can be devised to refute the superheroed up Jonah Hex.
44) I am hopeful for the Blackhawks, though. Combining WW2 aviation with superhero action? What could… possibly… go….
Oh my Lord. Oh my dear… dear… Lord. This new Blackhawk is going to he the SECOND worst thing ever, isn’t it?
45) Must… find… something…. good. Oh, hey, that’s a relief. Travel Foreman – who drew the living crap out of the brilliant Fraction/Brubaker Iron Fist run a couple years ago, is drawing Animal Man. Iron Fist style Epic noir is absolutely the correct approach to Buddy, and I’m all sortsa geeked. Getting issue # 1, and probably pull list.
46) Shoot, I’m at 46 and I haven’t mentioned the “straight” superheroes who aren’t part of a “family.” Let’s fix that. I’m a huge Wonder Woman fan, so I’m pretty much getting ANY Wonder Woman # 1, but I’m double-‘specially getting THIS Wonder Woman # 1. Now, admitedly, the ARCHITECTURE AND MORALITY trade that all you guys were raving about didn’t do much for me despite looking exactly like the kind of thing I like, but I’m a pretty big fan of both creators. And Wonder Woman as a horror story just WORKS for me, in an ineffable kind of way. Getting Issue # 1. And probably more.
47) You know what I really DID like? The Jason and Gehenna Firestorm. You know what I don’t like? Any other Firestorm ever. So I’m 50% pleased with Firestorm. So I’m not buying this new take.
48) I dig “Absent minded professor type as superhero cop” more than “What if the Earth Two Robin was kind of a jerk” so I like Barry better than classic Wally. (Though I like Wally as father to the Incredibles most of all. I’m sure there’s AT LEAST three other people out there who agree. We should start a support group, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.) I read but don’t remember anything about FLASH REBIRTH, but loved the first trade of the Johns/Manapul Flash series. I’m sad to see it go, and I’m a little nervous about the new Johns-less version…. But the previews are convincing me that this could be high concept and little Grant Morrison-y and great. I’m not committed to buying it, but… probably.
49) I was all set to write off the Geoff Johns/Ivan Reiss Aquaman as a combination of two guys with a penchant for violent comics with a title that has a history of dead babies, but then I saw the following at Comics Alliance:
Johns decided that his take on Aquaman is that the public of the DC Universe sees Aquaman much like the real public, and police officers and random people on the street keep thinking of him as a “right place, right time” guy in the Justice League. Johns stated that he’s trying to inject a lot more humor into his books as well as superheroes interacting with regular people instead of superheroes interacting with other superheroes.
Heeey, this sounds pretty cool in a Stan Lee sort of way. I’m not buying it, but I’ll be happy to check out the trade from the library.
50) Speaking of BRAVE AND THE BOLD (which we weren’t, because I changed the Aquaman bit): I collect Team-Up books and I was really hoping B & B would come back. Or at the very least we’d get that Lois Lane/Adam Strange story that J. Michael Straczynski promised.
51) Amd the last Number One I’m Buying? OMAC. Well meaning Kirby fan-fic or huge train-wreck or BOTH? I can’t not know!
52) And I’m buying Justice League # 1 like everyone else, but I’ve got a lot to say about it and we’re pushing 5,000 words already. So… another post! I sleep.
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