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The Year-End Thing

Looking back at the last year, I find…. that all of us comics blog types over the last couple of weeks are writing about the last year. So here I am doing it too. What can I say? The peer pressure’s too much for me.

I’m not fool enough to think I can sum it all up, and this isn’t any kind of best-of or anything, but here are a few things that stuck out for me this last year.

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Nicest surprise: The Black Bat, from Dynamite Comics. Usually I’m a sucker for Dynamite’s pulp revivals, but I honestly was going to skip this one, despite being rather fond of the original Black Bat stories from way back when.

But then I got this other gig that was kind of similar, so I picked up a random issue of this book just because I wanted to make sure I didn’t inadvertently echo anything Brian Buccellato was doing. And I was completely sucked in. I liked it enough to keep getting it and even hunted up the back issues.

Of course, the elephant in the room with the Black Bat is that even though he came first, trying to put him in comics means you have to make him different from Batman. And previously, the efforts to do that have been so strained and obvious that the comics that emerged were a mess. Even worse, the civilian identity of the Bat is Tony Quinn, blind defense lawyer, and the Black Bat has enhanced senses. So you’ve got the Daredevil thing to contend with, too. You want it to be enough like the pulps that you get the people who are fans of the original, but you don’t want it to look like you’ve copied other current superhero books, and somehow after all that you want it to feel fresh and new. Good luck with all that.

And you know what? Brian Bucellato and Roman Cliquet did it. They threaded the needle. Here, let them give you the setup…

Making Tony Quinn not just a lawyer but a corrupt mob lawyer who’s now trying to fight his way back to some kind of redemption… that one change makes all the difference. Instantly it’s become its own thing and it really works for me, as does the relentless pulp-action, hell-for-leather vibe of the book. I like Roman Cliquet’s art a lot, too. It’s just a great ride. Something I expected to not enjoy at all, I liked a lot. I love it when that happens.

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Most embarrassing display and lamest apology: Boy, we had a lot of contenders for this one. For a while I was just going to suggest a blanket win for all the convention sexual harassment apologists, because it was too difficult to pick just one. The cosplay stuff especially just boggles my mind. Seriously, to all the guys out there defending that behavior or saying it’s just how it is, girls, so live with it, what the hell is wrong with you?

But then came Shia LeBoeuf and his utter, complete inability to grasp what he actually did to Daniel Clowes, despite all his various apologies culminating in this banner he paid to have towed through the sky… somewhere. Probably not anywhere Daniel Clowes actually was, though the internet picked it up quickly enough.

But that’s not really how apologies work anyway. Clearly, Mr. LeBoeuf is too much of a deranged narcissist to really grasp the concept. His idea seems to be that the rest of us will SEE him making an apology and then we’ll… what? Applaud? Forgive him? Resume giving him cash to see his stolen story on film? Is that the endgame? Because I think that ship sailed.

Here is how an apology is supposed to work, for the benefit of all those people in the news that keep failing at it so spectacularly.

First, you acknowledge your own wrongdoing. That means you don’t say, “I’m sorry you were offended.” You say, “I apologize for being so offensive.” In other words, you agree that the offended party’s reaction makes sense in context because YOU DID A BAD THING. YOU WERE WRONG. Own up, cowards. “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” isn’t an apology at all, it’s just being a bigger jerk.

Then, you try to make restitution. In the case of LeBoeuf, it’s easy– he can pay Mr. Clowes for his story, like he should have done in the first place, and make sure that all future prints of the film in every format credit Dan Clowes for the story. Right up front with the names in large print, not somewhere buried in the end credits in the micro-print. Mr. LeBoeuf might also consider apologizing to all the people who worked on this film with him– I’m thinking of Jim Gaffigan, who stars in it, but there are lots of others– who now can never take credit for their work on the project without getting smeared as co-conspirators. Instead, Shia LeBoeuf chose to pay an airplane advertising firm to wave a flag. I looked it up– that costs about $500 an hour. LeBoeuf could have just given Clowes that cash and I bet it would have gone further towards cleaning up the mess.

Not to go on and on about it but this particular failure at public apology is such a perfect illustration of why so many public apologies are so lame. No one ever seems to make the final leap and finish the process, which is to say, you learn the lesson and stop doing the offensive thing. Not only has Mr. LeBoeuf not learned it, I’m not convinced he actually even knows what he did wrong. Which is apparently true of a lot of serial sexual harassers at comics conventions, too.

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Most Endearing Professional Fanboy Quirk: JUST under the wire; I came home with this on the last day of 2013. John Byrne has revived the Star Trek Fotonovel for this year’s Star Trek Annual from IDW.

Something that no one was clamoring for (Seriously. No one.) Fotonovels were a brief fad back in the 1970s. They didn’t last long and the consensus among everyone, even the hardcore fans buying the then-current paperback prose adaptations of Star Trek episodes, was that Fotonovels pretty much sucked. Even viewed through the rosy lens of nostalgia, they are still hideous non-books.

But you know what? This remixed-image Annual works. I kinda like it. Byrne’s cut together the images with a comics artist’s eye and he has the advantage of Photoshop, and what he’s put together is a nice little sequel to “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

Not something you want to do a lot, it would wear out its welcome in a hurry. But for a one-off like an annual, sure.

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Least Endearing Professional Fanboy Quirk: DC continuing to namecheck its history without any interest in actually evoking that history.

The easiest example is Topo from Aquaman. Once he looked like this. A cheerful octopus that liked to play music and help with the milking…

And now he looks like this. Some sort of Lovecraftian H.R. Giger hellspawn that looks like a hentai tentacle monster mated with a rotting lobster.

If Geoff Johns wants Aquaman to be pals with a hentai monster, okay, I can go with it…. but why in the world then name it “Topo”? What kind of weird fanboy OCD is that? I have no idea why anyone thinks this kind of not-revival is a good idea. As a joke it’s not funny, it’s just weird. As an insult to older folks it’s kind of lame. As an inside-baseball Easter egg it’s…. still pretty lame.

But DC keeps doing it. This has been going on at least since they had Wonder Dog eat Marvin and cripple Wendy over in Teen Titans a few years ago and it hasn’t gotten any less odd. Who’s this for? That’s what I keep wondering. It’s not a revival, it’s not a joke, it’s not something anyone asked for (show of hands– how many of you felt like Aquaman needed to bring back Topo the octopus?) So what’s the point?

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Favorite Reprint Project: Dear God, so MANY good ones. But the one I loved the most was the Archie Goodwin Batman hardcover.

My desert island Batman book. If I could only have one it would be this one.

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Favorite New Title: I can’t decide between Batman ’66 and The Shadow Now.

Both terrific and both of them just appeared as if by magic on days when I was feeling really grumpy about superhero comics. So I’m declaring it a tie. Because this is my year-end wrapup fake awards column and I can make up the rules as I go if I feel like it. Don’t judge me.

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Favorite Crowdfunded Comics Project: I am so overjoyed that the Middleman is coming back, words fail me.

Here’s hoping it’s such a huge success it becomes an annual event.

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Favorite Announcement About Upcoming Books: Can’t think of anything to top my pleasure at hearing we’re getting more Jonah Hex, especially the Vertigo stuff getting collected.

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Least Favorite Announcement About Upcoming Books: This isn’t really an announcement, at least not as of this writing. I dunno if it’s official. But it sure looks like Marvel is phasing out the Essential paperback series in favor of the Epic Collections. I hope I’m wrong about this. The Essentials are just about my favorite thing going and I love that DC finally caught up with doing the Showcase Presents books as well.

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That’s about all I’ve got about 2013. It was really a pretty good year for us, but it was so rough on so many of our friends that it was hard to enjoy it. In particular, if you can spare some kind thoughts– and maybe a little cash for the CAPS auction– for Stan Sakai and his family, that would sure be awesome.

Let’s hope 2014 treats us all well. See you next week.

13 Comments

[In best Capt. Kirk with hands on head voice] …must …resist …temptation …to …begin …collecting …all …these …new …pulp hero …comcs! Ah, who am I kidding? As soon as they’re collected in trades I’ll probably start looking for cheap copies.
And speaking of Capt. Kirk, I haven’t seen Byrne’s photonovel, but it took Byrne to get me to finally read Trek comics. I loved those minis he did for IDW, esp. the ones with the Romulans, the original No. 1 from the unaired pilot and Dr. McCoy.

Can’t say I totally agree with you about the replacement of Essentials with Epic Collections. Don’t get me wrong, I have a considerable stack of Essentials, all purchased used and/or discounted for half of their cover price at most (but usually even much less than that), and I really love them, but I know I’d love them all the more if they had been printed in color. What’s your primary objection to the Epic Collections? Is it just that they’re somewhat more expensive? Besides the slightly higher price tag, the only problem I see with them for now is that except for a few of the Avengers titles, I’m just not interested in any of the other titles in the line. I kind of wish they would go back and give some out-of-print Essentials volumes the color Epic treatment (*cough* Iron Fist *cough*).

I was especially pleased to hear of vol 2 of the Showcase Jonah Hex being solicited.

What’s your primary objection to the Epic Collections? Is it just that they’re somewhat more expensive? Besides the slightly higher price tag, the only problem I see with them for now is that except for a few of the Avengers titles, I’m just not interested in any of the other titles in the line.

My primary objections are that they’re more expensive and they’re in random order. As such, they are reprinting stuff that I often have here in other volumes, at least partially. The Essentials were a great bang for the buck and I like the idea of just reprinting a series straight through in order. Of course it gets problematic as you reach the 1980s and so many series start crossing over, but they were doing all right.

I had no idea that the apology to Dan Clowes had been so ineffectual and superficial. You’re right. It’s a non-apology _and_ a waste of money.

Thank you for recommending the “Star Trek” photo annual. I’m looking for an unusual gift for a friend of mine and that is perfect.

Good on you for posting a link to the auction.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

Least Endearing Professional Fanboy Quirk: DC continuing to namecheck its history without any interest in actually evoking that history…

But DC keeps doing it. This has been going on at least since they had Wonder Dog eat Marvin and cripple Wendy over in Teen Titans a few years ago and it hasn’t gotten any less odd. Who’s this for? That’s what I keep wondering. It’s not a revival, it’s not a joke, it’s not something anyone asked for (show of hands– how many of you felt like Aquaman needed to bring back Topo the octopus?) So what’s the point?

AMEN!

I don’t get it either. When I go to message boards, I see one group of fans complaining that DC is “reviving the Silver Age” and being retro. And I think to myself, have you people actually read a Silver Age comic? Meanwhile another group of fans feel DC has changed too much and is trying too hard to be edgy. I think the phenomenon you describe explains how people can have such disparate takes on DC. New fans see these old easter eggs and old characters and concepts and feel the Silver Age is being forced onto them. Old fans see things from their youth perverted into a grim, gross, and trendy caricature of what it used to be and feel that edginess is being forced onto them. End result: DC tries to pander to everyone and no one ends up happy.

Another dumb example of this was in James Robinson’s Cry for Justice when the 3 Golden Age Flash comic relief characters Blinky, Winky, Noddy made a return as three security guards from the Flash Museum who were slaughtered.

can’t believe someone created what daredevil would be as batman in the black bat. and shie is just sadly proving to be another hollywood young guy who sadly is losing it for if he was really serious about being sorry he would not only give dan the money for stealing his work and saying yes he did it it he should never have instead of oh i am sorry here i am even sky writting it .

Another dumb example of this was in James Robinson’s Cry for Justice when the 3 Golden Age Flash comic relief characters Blinky, Winky, Noddy made a return as three security guards from the Flash Museum who were slaughtered.

Good God. That immediately wins my personal ‘most tasteless example’ of this kind of thing.

I can only think of ONE time someone tried this and got it right. That was Neil Gaiman and the ‘Element Girl’ issue of Sandman. That time it worked.

And maybe when Alan Moore had Adam Strange show up in Swamp Thing, but I didn’t really like that one all that much… it seemed like a deliberate attempt to take all the romance out of the premise, although it certainly was better crafted and more subtle then a lot of these. But basically my feeling is that if you’re not Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman then just don’t go there.

LOVE The Middleman. I have started showing the TV series to my wife and have made another convert. I’m sadly still looking for the majority of the Middleman comics. I missed out on them the first time around and those trades are impossible to find, much less at decent prices. I’d like an omnibus style reprint of the previous comics along with the new material.

Oh never mind. I just looked at the funding website again for Middleman and noticed they plan on reprinting the old volumes as print-on-demand. I’ll definitely be picking those up…

I was initially intrigued by the Epic collections, but then I saw that they were just big hunks of comics from disparate times. I, too, just wanted uninterrupted runs of comics from the beginning. I woulda thought about paying for that concept in color, but that’s not what we’re getting. I really hope they’re not phasing out the Essentials. I have almost an entire wall of the suckers as they really are cost-effective. C’mon, Marvel! I’ll give you money as long as you don’t price me out like you did with singles!

One note: LaBoef’s “sorry, not sorry” quasi-apology was done with skywriting, not a banner. A crew of five planes using a computerized system prints the message in the air. http://worldwideskyadvertising.com/Skytyping.html

One note: LaBoef’s “sorry, not sorry” quasi-apology was done with skywriting, not a banner. A crew of five planes using a computerized system prints the message in the air. http://worldwideskyadvertising.com/Skytyping.html

Well, I’m not emailing them for a quote, but I’m going to guess that it costs substantially MORE than $500 an hour. Which makes it even more narcissistic and stupid than just a banner.

I suspect that in Johns’s mind, he’s doing Topo “right”. Sort of like how some genius at Marvel called Sleepwalker “Sandman done right”. (Not that Silver Age Aquaman is on a level with Sandman, but it’s certainly closer to “right” than the adolescent claptrap that’s DC’s standard these days.)

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