In the midst of the pop culture haven that is San Diego Comic Con, comics often get pushed aside for the bigger movies, games, and shows in the coming years.
But screw all of that because DC and Vertigo just announced a fanboy dream for those that were there in the beginning when Vertigo was just getting off the ground running. I’ll let Mr. Neil Gaiman explain:
Truly the announcement to beat so far at this year’s convention. For Gaiman to return to the series that gave him a great comic book reputation and a stellar artist in J.H. Williams who caught everybody’s eyes with his stunning work on Detective Comics and Batwoman, this will be the one to keep an eye on next fall for Sandman’s 25th anniversary.
I tip my hat to you, DC, Vertigo, and of course, Mr. Gaiman…
UPDATE: an image was released of one of the covers for the mini-series just now:
Last week, we devoted an entire podcast to Dragon Con and all its sci-fi, fantasy, and comic geeky goodness. There might have been comics there too, but it was hard to tell with all the Steampunk Elongated Men running around.
Speaking of steampunk, that was all the rage for the many that attended the Steampunk Superheroes panel. Beyond seeing Mike Mignola in the flesh and being amazingly impressed at how they can fit most superheroes into this sub-genre, the panelists gave out a list of comics for us to check out that are either of steampunk or have been influenced by it:
1. Barnum : In Secret Service to the USA – by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, and Niko Henrichon
2. Batman/Houdini : The Devil’s Workshop – by Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore
3. Batman : Gotham by Gaslight – by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola
4. Battle Chasers – by Joe Madureira
5. BPRD & Hellboy – by Mike Mignola and staff
6. Ex Machina – by Brian K. Vaughn
7. From Hell – by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
8. Ignition City – by Warren Ellis
9. JLA : Age of Wonder – by Adisakdi Tantimedh, P. Craig Russell and Galen Showman
10. JSA : The Liberty Files – by Dan Jolley
11. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
12. Marvel 1602 – by Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert
13. Mr. Hero, The Newmatic Man – by Neil Gaiman, James Dance, and Tod Slampyak
14. Planetary – by Warren Ellis
15. Rocketeer – by Dave Stevens
16. Steam Detectives – by Kia Asamiya
17. Steampunk – by Chris Bachalo
18. Superman : Metropolis, Batman : Nosferatu, and Wonder Woman : The Blue Amazon – all by Randy Lofficier and Jean-Marc Lofficier (all part of trilogy, supposedly based on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis film)
19. Tom Strong – by Alan Moore & Chris Sprouse
20. Wonder Woman : Amazonia – by William Messner-Loebs
No surprise that Moore, Gaiman, Mignola and Ellis dominate this list if you know their writing styles and influences. I’m curious to check the ones that have the Big Three at DC involve in this sub-genre – anything to mix things up.
Give your thoughts on any of the books here and let us know if you know of any more.
There was an entire wall at the comic shop dedicated to Blackest Night Prelude, so I picked up Green Lantern 41, and Tim got a few Green Lantern Corps. We talk a little more about Blackest Night and how DC is preparing you for it. Something that should be interesting when Blackest night begins next month is the Batman crossover. Night Wing has won the cowl, but when will Bruce Wayne make a return? Steve Rogers is coming back much sooner than we expected, so is the Blackest night story line the right time to bring Bruce back?
I found another great title in the Vertigo line called The Unwritten, which is written by Mike Carey of Lucifer, Hellblazer, X-Men: Legacy, and others. He’s also the author of The Devil You Know, and several other dark fantasy books. For The Unwritten, think if Harry Potter was based on a real boy who been struggling to be free of the association, but when he does he discovers that it may have been more real than he knew. Very interesting work, didn’t grab me like House of Mystery or Fables, but I enjoy Carey’s work and will follow the series.
Tim finishes up with what’s been going down in Spider-Man. He brings us up to speed with the whole re-editing Peter Parker’s history (One More Day) to the current story line, American Son, which has been called one of the best Spider-Man arcs ever. And then there are the usual tangents into things like Book’s of Magic, and the new Batman and Robin series written by Grant Morrison.
We’re also thinking about creating a social community site for Comic Book Fury to get more of you involved. More about that in later posts.
This week’s podcast is all about Fables. Well at least the first five graphic novels. Fables is on ongoing Vertigo series with characters from fairy tales and folklore, such as The Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Boy Blue and others, who have left their Homelands to escape an enemy known as the Adversary, whose identity is revealed in a later issue, but not in the first five graphic novels.
Fables is written by Bill Willingham, who also wrote another new favorite of mine, House of Mystery.
We talk a little about Sandman, John Constantine, and I yes I know, it’s Jack Ketch, not John.
Re-boots seems to be all the craze nowadays in movies. Batman was brought back to audiences four years ago and showed what the character and his universe was really made of (Heath Ledger would have something to do with that in the sequel). I also recently saw Star Trek, which refreshed a franchise in dire need of new direction and yet still honored the spirit of the franchise.
It’s only fitting then that I start off my blog series about relevant comic books with a re-boot that brought the Batman of the comic books out of the campy terrain:
Before this book hit the stands, Batman was all about Adam West and the Bat-Tusi in the 60′s. The campy nature of the show became a hit, but at the same time, it made the character one not to be taken too seriously in the books. Rotating writers in the 70′s and early 80′s made efforts to bring the character back to his dark roots, but it was 1986 that saw Frank Miller put Batman back on top of the food chain.
Comic book enthusiasts know Miller well from bringing a similar darker edge back to Daredevil and Wolverine around the same time frame. His independent work on Sin City and 300 would become feature films as well. This dark, edgy style was the kind of boost Batman needed and would help remind us who he is and why he is the way he is.
Dark Knight Returns gives us a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne long retired from the crime-fighting business, but seeing his city still crumbling under the might of old and new villains. Not one able to enjoy retirement for too long, he dons the cowl once more and revamps his tactics to take on this new, violent society. The book is renowned for helping to bring more adult-oriented storytelling to the books and put characters in new lights (a female Robin, a government puppet in Superman, Joker just an unfunny psycho, etc.). It also (like Watchmen) spoke of a society in the Cold War going to actual war and what its characters’ values spoke of those events.
I also take personal satisfaction in the last issue when Batman must confront a Superman that has to bring him in. Say what you want about all the help he needed; the sight of Batman kicking the Man of Steel to the floor is a sight that won’t leave me.
What’s interesting about this book is that it speaks volumes as to what Mike and I spoke about in our last podcast regarding Neil Gaiman’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?‘. Batman is a character that is relentless in his quest to put fear into the criminal element. The only way he can ever see himself out of the game is if he was dead. No amount of golf or emptying the family wine coolers would bring satisfaction. It’s a sad story to see, but it brings the kind of depth to a character that can be difficult to replicate at times.
This darker edge has resulted in many superb stories from The Killing Joke to Knightfall. It transferred over into the animated and movie realms and the rest is history. Read Dark Knight Returns and tell us what you think.
I routinely get asked what’s so fascinating about reading stories of spandex-clad super-heroes in the comics. I’ll get remarks that it’s just “nerd” material, just for kids, or that I need to get outside more. Granted, I do question at times why Superman wears red underwear outside his costume, but hey, he’s still fully clothed and that’s all that matters…
There’s a lot to be said about the comic book itself and what it brought to the table throughout history. When people were first introduced to Captain America in the 40′s, it was a response to our fears about how the U.S. will fare in WWII. When the X-Men were introduced in the 60′s, it spoke volumes about the racial prejudice prominent to that period. Then there were the stories that brought things down to a more personal scale. Spider-Man brought us a character that not only fought crime, but dealt with real-life issues most high school and college students could relate to. The Fantastic Four showed us that even super-hero families have relational issues and can still work them out. Combine these with the sci-fi aspects that comes with being super heroes and you can see why comics have outlasted economic turmoil and critic bashing over the years.
Of course, being that comics have been a visual medium for the longest time, there comes a time when the emphasis on art is stronger than emphasis on writing. Enter the early 90′s. Artists became superstars. Publishers produced hundreds of covers for almost every single issue. It was the “in” thing to collect and sell at later times. Storytelling took a back seat while artwork helped rack in the dough.
Then the market became saturated with thousands of useless issues that weren’t being collected. Consumers realized the deteriorating value behind these issues. Retailers and publishers lost millions. Marvel declared bankruptcy in 1996. The bare-bones storytelling became more noticeable and many fan-favorite characters suffered via cancellations. The industry started to re-think the direction behind its heroes as well as other areas they can explore.
The mid 90′s started to show the potential of the medium through Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which Mike touched upon in our first podcast.
It was a different approach, delving into and re-inventing the mythologies Gaiman wanted to play with. It went away from the conventional super hero books and showed that comics could be as just a respected reading medium as any novel on the bookshelves. DC took notice and created its “Vertigo” line to accommodate creator-owned lines and new universes.
Fables, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and more would help in grabbing old readers disenchanted by the old superhero stories and new readers looking for innovative storytelling. The superhero books would follow after DC and Marvel discovered a new crop of writers that could re-invent their images. And while today’s sales numbers may not reach the numbers the 80′s and early 90′s brought, comics are getting a new kind of respect that has resulted in writers being offered TV gigs and comic properties becoming high-grossing movies.
My next few posts will highlight the books I feel are helping to realize the medium’s potential. Feel free to suggest any you feel deserve to be up on that list. Enjoy!