AICN COMICS ROUNDTABLE
@@@ DC COMICS 2010! @@@
@$$Hole Roll Call:Ambush Bug
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): It's been a year of some pretty big events over at DC. There's been the end of BLACKEST NIGHT, the beginning of BRIGHTEST DAY, big goings on in all the Bat-titles, a new start for Superman in trade form and Wonder Woman in her own title, a Kryptonian War, the launch of the First Wave universe, Barry Allen got reborn, the death of the WildStorm line, and don’t forget about Vertigo among other things. What do you think of DC's output this year? Anything jump out at you as particularly good or bad? What did you love or hate or wish had gotten more or less attention?
JOHNNY DESTRUCTO (JD): This year and last have been my favorite for DC in a very, very long time. If I could dry-hump Geoff Johns in the face to thank him, I would. BLACKEST NIGHT leading into BRIGHTEST DAY has been at the top of my stack every issue, and I just can't get enough of it.
SUPERHERO: I gotta say...I don't get what the big deal was with BLACKEST NIGHT and now BRIGHTEST DAY. I've gone on record as saying that BLACKEST NIGHT just seems like a reaction to MARVEL ZOMBIES...and not a very good one. BLACKEST NIGHT was one of those things where I had to be reading a bajillion other books to understand it and, y'know what? I'm just not that interested in GREEN LANTERN. Sorry, there I said it. Seems a bit short sighted to make one character and his mythology the crux of your whole universe, especially if his new mythology reminds me of the Care Bears.
HUMPRHEY LEE (HUMPHREY): Honestly, until we started this I forgot BLACKEST NIGHT ended this year. Yay, Space Zombies and a bunch of Johns' favorite characters got brought back to life. The stuff after it has been enjoyable, but that's mainly because we're getting back books of characters I deeply enjoy: BIRDS OF PREY, more JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL material and so on.
MATT ADLER (MATT): BLACKEST NIGHT was just too by-the-numbers for me, and BRIGHTEST DAY is...well, is BRIGHTEST DAY really anything besides branding?
BUG: See BLACKEST NIGHT was good, but it was a tasty nibble that turned out to be a very bloated sandwich. Having just lost a lot of steam with Morrison’s unintelligible FINAL CRISIS, DC latched onto the much more accessible BLACKEST NIGHT, tacked on too many crossovers and miniseries, and made Johns’ story (which was a good one and was a cool extension from the SINESTRO CORPS WAR) into the bloated event that it shouldn’t have been. BRIGHTEST DAY is paring it back a bit, but by the time it started, the luster Johns’ story had at the end of SINESTRO CORPS WAR had already faded.
MATT: I agree on BLACKEST NIGHT; very one-note and got tiring quickly. But to be fair, the ship has sailed on GL...they made his mythos the centerpiece of the DCU back in 1985, when CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS used an old GL story to explain the existence of the Multiverse, and the villain that led to unifying it.
SQUASHUA (SQUASH): I imagined that BRIGHTEST DAY was the answer to the Marvel "Heroic Age" or vice-versa. From a broad concept of an onlooker, I figured both were returns to re-invigorating classic character ideas. Granted, I haven't really read much from either event, so I could be totally off-base.
MATT: I actually think it was just something in the zeitgeist, like when Swamp Thing and Man-Thing came out pretty much simultaneously. Marvel and DC were probably just reacting to weariness of fans with the ongoing gloom of events like CIVIL WAR and IDENTITY CRISIS.
On the other hand, I don't think Johns has been as successful in revitalizing FLASH the second time around. It's a shame, because DC just seemed to go off the rails with the franchise a couple of years ago, unable to commit to a direction, and haven't really found their footing with it since.
KLETUS CASADAY (KLETUS): FLASH is good but it's kind of slow and the first arc looked great but the story was meh...I'm sick of the Flash’s rogues. I want him to fight some new baddies, although I will say Johns does some good character work with the Rogues...they're just so fucking goofy...
JD: FLASH starting with his REBIRTH, has been a little disappointing. As a long time Wally fan, I was excited to see Barry's take on everything and his new place in the DCU, as well as how he interacts with the rest of the speedsters, particularly Wally. So far, the first story arc was a bit too long and drawn out, and we haven't had much interaction with the other runners, if any at all.
BUG: FLASH has been ok. I just wish they’d have let Wally stick around and not fade into the background and just given Johns a ROGUES book to write because the only issues worth a damn so far in that series center around them and it’s obvious they are the characters John loves writing anyway.
MATT: I am looking forward to the “Flashpoint” event which based on the teasers looks interesting.
SUPERHERO: I've pretty much just been reading the SUPERMAN stuff and I have to say...I really ended up liking what went on. At first I thought I was gonna hate all the “New Krypton” crap and Superman leaving Earth again just seemed so, "been there, done that." But they pulled it out for me. No, it's not the greatest comic stuff you'll ever read, but it was fun at times--which is much more than I can say about Superman in previous years (minus Geoff John's stuff on ACTION). I gotta say, it kept me interested and it made me buy all the WAR OF THE SUPERMAN and LAST STAND ON NEW KRYPTON stuff.
KLETUS: The SUPERMAN stuff this year was strange and only reinforced my theory that for the most part no one knows what to do with Superman. WORLD OF NEW KRYPTON was cool and there were some interesting things going on (mostly because of Greg Rucka, I'd say) but when it wrapped up there was no evidence that it even happened...it cleaned up waaaay too neatly and Superman was just like "welp...just another day...back to work," even though 200,000 of his native people were destroyed before his eyes. I really think it's going to take someone with a great angle on Supes to make him interesting again.
MATT: I liked the tone that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank set for the Superman line with their run on ACTION and SECRET ORIGIN, and I thought the “New Krypton” stuff was intriguing, but it was wrapped up too neatly without any real long-term ramifications. Boom, goodbye “New Krypton”! On to the next thing.
SUPERHERO: Well, yeah, but wasn't that JMS saying I want to do THIS!? Instead of building off of what came before he chose to ignore it and do what he wanted with Superman. Supes should be in some serious therapy at the very least.
MATT: I think that's right; JMS pretty much came in and got to shove the apple cart off a cliff. I interviewed Paul Cornell (who took over ACTION after Marc Guggenheim mysteriously quit) and even though his book was slated to solely focus on Lex Luthor (JMS denies demanding sole custody of Superman), he made it clear there'd be no follow-up on Luthor's role in the destruction of New Krypton. I guess it could have been Cornell's decision, but that seems like a pretty glaring thing to gloss over.
VROOM: JMS’ SUPERMAN was little more than a retread of Denny O’Neil's GL/GA “Hard Travelling Heroes”, minus the charm. EARTH ONE bored the hell out of me; all I could think was that JMS had done this better and with more verve on SUPREME POWER.
BUG: I think this year marked the point where I finally think I’m done with JMS. His excuses are so tired by now. “I’m not feeling well.” “My dog ate my homework.” “Earthquake.” “Paper cut on index finger.” I’m sorry to be insensitive about ills the man may have endured over the last year, but everyone else in the world has to do a job when they’re paid or a contract is signed. At this point, all it does is highlight how unprofessional the industry is and how idiotic Marvel and DC are for continuing to give this man work. If I were Marvel or DC, I wouldn’t pay the guy one single cent until I got a script that had the words THE END on it.
MATT: I think the rise of JMS at DC has been more interesting for what it says about the end of his relationship with Marvel, in terms of his fallout with Joe Quesada over “One More Day”, not wanting to participate in any more crossovers like the “Siege”, and seemingly abandoning projects like THE TWELVE midstream. His DC revamps seem to have mostly met with confusion and/or indifference, with the possible exception of the SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE graphic novel, which led to the surprise announcement that he's going to exclusively focus on OGNs for the time being. Regardless of the quality of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, I have to applaud DC's expanding commitment to that financially risky format, in contrast to Marvel where they're up front about insisting on making sure every project gets a taste of the monthly dollars to back it up.
SUPERHERO: God, how I loathed EARTH ASS. Talk about over-rated. Wow. What I don't understand is why they even did EARTH ASS. They should have had Geoff Johns' SECRET ORIGIN be the flagship graphic novel. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun, and the art was light years better.
JD: There were some interesting elements there, but overall I have to admit to loving SECRET ORIGIN far more than his emo rebooting.
SUPERHERO: I did enjoy Johns' SECRET ORIGIN but more for Gary Frank's art than the story itself. Can that guy just draw every Superman book from now on? Huh? Please?
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Both Johns and JMS had unenviable tasks with EARTH ONE and SECRET ORIGINS. Change too much as some have suggested with E1 and you turn it into a completely different book like SUPREME POWER; don't change enough and you get the collective "meh" response that we see in the @$$hole clubhouse towards SECRET ORIGINS. Change everything and that becomes an Elseworlds. So how do you win?
MATT: A lot of this is the fault of editorial; there just shouldn't be so many different iterations of their lead character in such a short period of time. In the years before Byrne's reboot, there were two main iterations of Superman--Golden Age and Silver Age--and those weren't even deliberate distinctions initially; they arose out of continuity goofs. Now, in the past decade, we've gotten BIRTHRIGHT, ALL-STAR, SECRET ORIGIN, and now EARTH ONE. Taken individually they may be creatively valid, but together, it's too much. Pick one version, and stick with it. I personally think SECRET ORIGIN took the right tack, but may have gotten lost to an extent amongst everything else they were doing.
BUG: Some kind of bastard offspring of SECRET ORIGIN and ALL STAR SUPERMAN would be the best. Definitely not EARTH ONE, but that book wasn’t as bad as it has been touted and is definitely getting the wrong press as the “emo” version of Superman. I hate it when folks hang their entire opinion on the fact that he wears a hoodie on the cover. It just smacks of someone who hasn’t read the entire book. What’s so emo about a hoodie, really?
SUPERHERO: Excuses, excuses. EARTH ASS is just all around bad in my opinion. I liked SECRET ORIGINS more than I thought I was going to. I just didn't like some of the Luthor stuff. But it was solid. And again, Gary Frank. Oh, yes, Gary Frank. And any re-tread of Superman's origin is an Elseworlds at this point! It's been told so many different ways that I don't think that one's considered canon. Except for the Siegel and Shuster version, that is.
SQUASH: Please stop calling it EARTH ASS. I keep getting it mixed up with ALL STAR SUPERMAN, one of the best comic book series of the modern age whose abbreviation is ASS.
HUMPHREY: I agree that I, for one, liked how the year started off for the big guy: there was a big yet relatively self-contained and interesting story for him in the pages of all the “New Krypton” books that let the character shine and tell some big space stories with the occasional guest star. It did peter out pretty badly at the end, though, with the last arc being as predictably "returning to the status quo" as an event can be. But if there is a character that either of the Big Two could and should be basing entire crossover events around, it’s Supes.
KLETUS: I can kind of see what JMS was working towards with SUPERMAN but I can understand some of the frustrations people have...overall it’s kind of more boring than anything but what do you do with Supes at this point to make him exciting and relevant?
BUG: You write him like Morrison did in ALL STAR SUPERMAN!
SUPERHERO: Yeah, I've just caught up with a lot of the JMS SUPERMAN issues and I have to say...wow...that's some not good stuff right there. And I refuse to even look at that WONDER WOMAN stuff. Just the costume redesign alone shows me that he's got it wrong from the get-go.
VROOM: As for WONDER WOMAN... I'm on record as calling it one-dimensional, poorly written garbage. I'd like to address new WW writer Phil Hester for a second, if I may. Phil, you and I both know that this new take on Wonder Woman is about as permanent as AzBats and Electric Blue Superman. These three characters, more than any other comic book characters (with the possible exception of Marvel's Spider-Man), are imprinted on the public conscience in a manner so profound that changing them this way is practically a crime against humanity. You and I both know that the average person hears Wonder Woman, and his first thought is of Lynda Carter. For better or worse, Wonder Woman isn't Wonder Woman without the costume, Paradise Island, the whole schtick. I implore you to, as soon as is plot convenient, make this whole misguided misadventure into the footnote it deserves to be.
BUG: See, I have to disagree, Vroom. At least on the costume front. Aside from the dumb jacket, the new threads aren’t all that bad and getting all in an uproar about them is like getting upset for the minor tweaks the Batman outfit has sustained through the years. I could care less if Diana fought in a scuba suit if the story is good, but the story was lame. WONDER WOMAN has been lame for years. Changing her costume is a way to get attention, but if the story is shit, the attention will fade. And guess what? It did. Time for another reboot.
KLETUS: I like Wonder Woman as a character but I can't say I've really read anything that was that great. All these changes and shit make no difference to me because I'm not that invested. Personally I like when she's portrayed as more of the strictly warrior type that barely gives a shit about humans. It kind of gives her something to work towards, otherwise she's just seems like any other superhero to me.
MATT: I personally have a fondness for the early William Moulton Marston stories just for their bizarreness and barely disguised sexual subtext. I think I'd like to see a Grant Morrison run to recapture the trippiness of that era, but I don't know if DC would ever allow him to go full out on it.
BUG: Morrison has stated that he wants to write Wonder Woman somewhere down the line utilizing that same bizarreness that you cite, Matt. That’ll probably be the next time I check out the title.
JD: Meanwhile at Stately Wayne Manor, Batman's return was less than interesting in the long run, but I can't think of a time in recent history that I've enjoyed that character as much as I have during Morrison's BATMAN & ROBIN run. That was just fun all the way through, and I hope that Damian and Dick stick around in that dynamic for some time to come!
KLETUS: While it was disappointing that Quietly wasn't on BATMAN & ROBIN longer than he was, it was still a good read. I do agree that the team up of Dick & Damian has breathed some new life in the Batman & Robin dynamic and really turned what could have been a disaster into something new, different and fun as hell...and I hated Damian at first but now I love the little guy...
BUG: Yeah, we’ve gotta talk a bit about Morrison’s BATMAN run this year. He did a hell of a lot better making some kind of sense this year or at least bringing the reader along for the ride on his “trips” despite the fact that RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE kind of petered out. BATMAN & ROBIN was bulletproof this year, and the events that occurred after Bruce came back have definitely taken the character on an interesting swerve the character has never been on before. BATMAN INC. could all blow up in Morrison’s face, but this year has seen the most consecutively cohesive Morrison books ever in his Bat titles. Hell, Morrison even went back and spackled the cracks in FINAL CRISIS and R.I.P. almost acknowledging the incohesiveness of his previous stints on the title. For that, the guy deserves some credit.
HUMPHREY: My feeling about this past DC year is similar to my feelings on Marvel's: that there was some good stuff in there, but probably too much fluff and hype for its own good. BLACKEST NIGHT, BRIGHTEST DAY, RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE: too much hype for books that went on way too long and played out about as expected. But some good stuff came from all this; I actually do dig on JLA: LOST GENERATION, love that BIRDS OF PREY is back and of course like THE FLASH, despite being more a Wally guy than Barry. I even liked the first BATMAN INC despite not caring much at all for Morrison's BATMAN stories that were not in BATMAN & ROBIN.
KLETUS: The hype kills me for both companies. I don't understand it...let the story speak for itself. Advertising is one thing but the hype has to go...unless you are 100% sure that this one is a game changer, and I can't ever see a company knowing that the readers are going to definitely go head over heels for a particular event ahead of time. Especially since most events are so formulaic that by the end of the first issue you know exactly (or pretty damn close) what's going to happen.
VROOM SOCKO (VROOM): The first major plus for DC this year in my book was Gail Simone returning to BIRDS OF PREY. True, the dynamic of the team has changed drastically, but it's done so believably, and in a way that is accessible to new readers. It certainly doesn't hurt that Gail does characterization better than anything, barring insane humor.
BUG: I love Gail Simone’s work, but I think SECRET SIX is far stronger than BoP ever has been. I just love what she’s done with these characters. I still attest to my statement earlier in the year that Simone writes male characters that are so much more interesting than her female ones. I’ll read Simone’s Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, hell even Bane before I’d be interested in been-there-done-that Black Canary, bland Oracle, and blander Huntress. Hell, she writes Hawk better than most other characters in BoP. Lady Blackhawk too, but mainly because she usually acts like a dude. Love the title, but SECRET SIX is where Simone shines the brightest.
SQUASH: I've dropped most of my DC titles this year (actually pretty much all my titles) and just recently pared it down to four books: BATMAN INC. (oddly enough, I didn't like Morrison on the JLA till I re-read all of them at once), R.E.B.E.L.S., DOOM PATROL, BOOSTER GOLD, and (forgive me) Judd Winnick's JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST, which I might actually be dropping soon because it's starting to circle the drain. This is me putting my money where my mouth is when I say I follow writers, not characters, and it's also a money and space thing these days. With DC, I got burnt out on all the GREEN LANTERN ring stuff after BLACKEST NIGHT and I'm not following any of this white ring thing.
BUG: BRIGHTEST DAY hasn’t been all that bad but I think the multi-character, year-long storyline, and inching plot have definitely made it a tough book to get behind. I love a lot of the characters in it and appreciate the fact that since Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Aquaman, and the Hawks can’t sustain their own title for more than two years tops, at least we get a semi-regular story with them in it.
KLETUS: My personal faves from DC have been JONAH HEX, RED ROBIN, Tony Daniel's BATMAN, Morrison's BATMAN has been interesting but sometimes I find my self wondering if I missed a page or two.
BUG: Glad you mentioned RED ROBIN. I’ve been digging this since issue one and despite the crossovers, it’s been a pretty strong evolution of Tim Drake’s character. And JONAH HEX is always rock solid, though the format is getting a bit tired. Still one of the best books of 2010 was JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK, Palmiotti and Gray’s original graphic novel that was everything that horrid movie should have been.
SQUASH: In my opinion with inflation, the increase of art size and the decrease in text (a reason why I love Keith Giffen books), the average comic book should cost $2 at most. I require justification for any comic priced higher than that; periodical geek-focused magazines give much more bang for the buck than the average comic.
KLETUS: I agree books should be $2. $3 or $4 if and only if the page count is over a certain amount and those crappy backups ain't cuttin' it. I guarantee both companies would benefit from having cheaper comics because people would be willing to try new things rather than worrying about wasting $3 to $5 on something they don't like. Plus the amount of comics people read would go up drastically because they wouldn't have to cut as many comics to keep their expenses down.
SQUASH: I just realized that I dropped the entertaining POWER GIRL this year because of Judd Winick and picked up JL: GENERATION LOST despite Judd Winick (I was on because of Giffen).
HUMPHREY: It really does epitomize that man's career with how much of a crapshoot it is finding good Judd and bad Judd.
KLETUS: There's definitely 2 Judds. JLA: GENERATION LOST= good Judd, TITANS=Bad Judd, Batman= Good Judd/Bad Judd. He's like that buddy you have that's cool sometimes and a really dick other times and you never know which one he's going to be on any given day. I do think he's going to hit his mark soon and impress people...I just don't know when that's going to happen but I feel like he's got potential and that's mostly because of how much I'm enjoying GENERATION LOST.
HUMPHREY: To overall analyze DC's writer stable in general, I think they are still somewhat lacking in talent. They have a good amount of Big Names thanks to Johns, Robinson, Simone and Morrison and then a decent handful of everyday writers - Tomasi, Bedard, Cornell, etc. - but I think that's about it. It's a drop in the bucket compared to what Marvel has assembled the past couple years, from Bendis and Fraction and Hickman all the way down to even Van Lente and Pak and Parker, they just have a much wider base of talent down the line. Now, it's how they use that talent that is suspect combined with a terrible pricing strategy that I get more from DC still these days.
MATT: I guess Marvel does have a somewhat deeper bench; I like Johns, Simone, Morrison, Bedard, Levitz, Giffen, and DeMatteis on the DC side, but they haven't cultivated a lot beyond that. One thing I think Marvel does a lot better is promote their talent; I don't think Fraction is that great a writer, yet they've done a very good job in getting his name out there as "the next Bendis". In contrast, whatever one thinks of JMS' work, DC should have been able to make more out of his various projects (SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, BRAVE AND THE BOLD, RED CIRCLE, etc), and yet instead he's retreating to the infrequent release of OGNs. Somewhat of a loss for DC. I think that ineffectiveness in promoting talent extends to the artistic side as well, which is why you see big names like the Kuberts and Bagley trickling back to Marvel. I also think if they were a little more flexible in terms of giving writers room to stretch their wings inside their main universe, they might not have had guys like Ennis, Ellis, Carey, Aaron, Brubaker, and Waid working for the competition in the first place. Heck, even Willingham has started doing superhero stuff for Marvel. But if DC's recent shift towards opening up the DCU to their Vertigo writers continues, they may be able to correct that imbalance.
OD: Where Squash dropped I kept my DC buying at an even keel throwing myself headlong into the RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, BATMAN & ROBIN, BRIGHTEST DAY and the off-shoot SUPERMAN titles like SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and SECRET ORIGINS. Sadly I stayed away from the main SUPERMAN Universe this year, because I truly feel it's suffocating under the weight of its own history. “The Krypton War” was ill-timed. That's an epic event that rode too closely to the epicness of BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY. It's a continuity cluster the Douche can not abide. Supes should have been out for his current continental saunter during the GREEN LANTERN cosmic stuff (did he really play a vital part in BRIGHTEST DAY...hell no, Johns is the puppet master of the B-List, Supes is barely a factor) and then should have been thrown headlong into the Krypton War now that we have all got a collective GREEN LANTERN malaise. It's all in the timing...
BUG: I see what you mean, but I understand what Johns was doing keeping Hal in the spotlight and leaving out Superman. It is the culmination of all of Hal’s stories, so of course, GL would be the main character. But if I was looking at DC from an editorial standpoint, I can’t see the reason for having so many SUPERMAN books out there when not one of them is very good. Sure, you get a decent storyline here or there, but for the most part, Supes is a character that is either taken out of the picture or makes a return to be interesting. I say get one core SUPERMAN title, make it good, then maybe spin off to another. Having a comic around simply because it’s always been around is stupid. Say what you will about Marvel, but at least they refocused on Spidey in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for a year before trying to expand. Make the character relevant again, then maybe he’d be worth so many books. Right now, it doesn’t matter if he’s supposed to be DC’s biggest and best hero, the truth is, he ain’t.
SUPERHERO: See, this is what I mean by throwing your whole universe behind one character based event. I was thankful for all of the New Krypton stuff. WAR OF THE SUPERMEN, etc. It was my salvation from all of that GREEN LANTERN mess that I was curious about but didn't want overwhelming everything else. I'd actually like to see this kind of thing continue in a way. Have Superman have his own crazy event, have Green Lantern have his, have Bats have his, and on an on. That way I can just enjoy crazy Superman stuff without him getting dragged into Green Lantern's crap.
BOTTLEIMP (IMP): Too many events crammed too close together, I agree. And sadly, the rising price of comics plays heavily into why I didn't read more of what DC was offering, despite some glowing reviews both here on AICN and elsewhere. I already feel like I spend too much on comics, so there's no way I can justify spending an additional $30 a month buying crossover books.
HUMPHREY: At the least DC did not seem to get as "all encompassing" with its crossovers as Marvel did this year - it mostly held to maxi-series and a few tie-in titles, but the voracity of them has been problematic. Anyone that added BRIGHTEST DAY and JL: GENERATION LOST to get the most out of the post-BLACKEST NIGHT storyline just added $144 to their budget, which is pretty ridiculous. The thing that gets me with DC is that they tend to have more characters I want to pay attention to than Marvel does, though I tend to really like my Marvel characters more when I connect with one, and that was way more apparent this year as BIRDS OF PREY came back, REBELS continued to be a fun under-the-radar read, we got a new FLASH title that is of course excellent due to Johns and so on. Sadly JSA and JLA proper have become pretty terrible, which is where most of my DC faves usually reside. The move to a dedicated $2.99 price point, though, makes me feel a bit safer in my spending habits.
BUG: I have to agree. JLA needs to be taken out behind the woodshed. Robinson is just heinous on it with his multiple perspective word captions and overcrowded roster. JSA is the same way. Johns spent all of that time building a new legacy for the JSA, but now no one knows what to do with all of them. Why have a rigid roster in JSA? Why not have one JSA book where each mission has a couple of characters and mix it up every month? Kind of like a GI JOE team. Splitting the team into two books didn’t fix anything. It just diluted an already weakening title. R.E.B.E.L.S. is the little title that could at DC. Strong story. Cool characters. The book needs a consistent art team, but other than that, I love every issue published this year. Plus, you really don’t have to buy ten other titles to feel you’re reading the old story. It’s kind of like Marvel’s NOVA & GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY rolled all into one. Another highlight is FREEDOM FIGHTERS. Palmiotti and Grey, though they aren’t writing their best, are still writing a cool group of second tier characters in top tier fashion.
MATT: The end of WildStorm was pretty momentous, but I have to say I think it was a long time coming. It always seemed when DC bought the company, they were really buying Jim Lee. Their in-house properties were mostly grittier takes on traditional superheroes, and there's not much percentage for DC in saying, "Hey, here are our heroes, and now here are cooler versions of them!" Plus, most of the creator-owned books can fit into Vertigo with a little finessing.
BUG: Yeah, I didn’t get any WildStorm titles regularly and haven’t since SLEEPER ended, but I did enjoy reading their FRIDAY THE 13TH, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET titles, but those haven’t come out consistently in a while either. The one shining star from WildStorm this year was John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg’s A GOD SOMEWHERE, possibly one of the best original graphic novels not enough people paid attention to this year. But that book could have easily fit into the Vertigo line.
HUMPHREY: On its worst day, when it comes to DC, you can always count on Vertigo to have at least a half dozen titles that are pushing the medium, telling excellent stories while toying with convention, and just being damn good comics. Sadly, the number of titles has dwindled the past couple years, but the quality most definitely has not.
MATT: Speaking of Vertigo, they seem to be the rock during the storm of recent management upheaval at DC, continuing strong with books like DMZ, NORTHLANDERS, SWEET TOOTH, FABLES, THE UNWRITTEN, and SCALPED. And I find it interesting that after years of Marvel poaching top Vertigo writers like Garth Ennis, Mike Carey, Jason Aaron, etc for their superhero line, Geoff Johns in his CCO role is finally breaking down the barriers and bringing Vertigo writers like Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder over to the DC superhero line. It's a huge untapped resource and could pay off big down the road.
VROOM: Ah, Vertigo... My biggest fear is that in 2011 it'll go the way of WildStorm. Their range just seems to be shrinking. I remember the 90's, when PREACHER, SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATER, and TRANSMETROPOLITAN were bigger than big. Now though, the line just seems so much smaller. Y THE LAST MAN is done, 100 BULLETS is done, MADAME XANADU just got canned...it just feels like the imprint is dying. I get the sense that Vertigo isn't even bothering to look for that next PREACHER, that next SANDMAN. I used to have a bunch of their titles on my pull list, now it's just FABLES and HOUSE OF MYSTERY. To be sure, they're two of the best books I read, but I can't help wonder how much longer they're going to be around.
BUG: Don’t forget AMERICAN VAMPIRE, man. Having been looking for a Vertigo series to follow since Y: THE LAST MAN ended, Scott Snyder’s fresh take on vamps has filled the slot nicely for me.
HUMPHREY: I will agree with you that the imprint is not as burgeoning as it used to be, but that need not necessarily be a bad thing. Instead of having 18 titles, half of which being up to the quality standard that it is used to, it's probably okay to just have 9 really great books, and everything they are producing right now is very much worth a read. Plus, they have been really expanding their OGN line, adapting to something that we have been saying may be where comics are in a decade, showing once again that Vertigo is still way ahead of the curve.
MATT: I think Vertigo will be fine as long as Karen Berger is in charge, and if DC knows what's good for them, they'll keep her. She's a smart lady who's guided the imprint through some rough times. I still think they have plenty of solid stuff in their stable, including the works of Willingham, Brian Wood, Jeff Lemire, Mike Carey, and Jason Aaron. Yeah, there have been some unfortunate cancellations, so if they're playing it safe by not launching a lot of new books, maybe that's smart in these turbulent economic times. And unlike WildStorm, Vertigo has always had a clear mandate: to do the kinds of books that can't be done in their superhero universe, and to expand the horizons of the medium.
VROOM: I agree with you, for the most part. I just can't help feeling that Vertigo is in a position right now where they're playing it safe. I want to see a risk or two. That's really what I mean by the next PREACHER. PREACHER was a massive creative risk. So were TRANSMET, Y, and FABLES. I'd like to see more books from them that challenge creators. Hell, I want books that challenge readers! To be honest, I want that from every comic company out there, but I'm used to getting it from Vertigo.
SUPERHERO: Y'know what? If Vertigo does go away there are plenty of other publishers right now who'd love to publish the stuff that Vertigo's doing. Dark Horse, Image, and Oni would all pick up the slack and fill up the vacuum that Vertigo would leave behind. It would suck to see a powerhouse company like DC/Warner not support the type of stuff Vertigo puts out but to me that shows how ridiculous the mindset behind the powers that be would be if they let Vertigo disappear. If DC and Marvel think that dudes in tights are going to sustain them for the next century then they are sadly mistaken.
BUG: I think that’s the thing Marvel and DC are too egotistical to even consider these days. If they get too bloated, too overexposed, too expensive, fans today can go elsewhere. In the past, there weren’t many companies out there that could offer an alternative to the quality the Big Two produced. Nowadays, I’ve been going to Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, BOOM!, hell, even Dynamite and Zenescope for solid comic booking more so than any other year. DC and Marvel seem to turn a blind eye to that fact and continue to flood the market in lieu of quality.
MATT: I actually don't think the smaller publishers COULD pick up the slack from the hole left if Vertigo were to disappear. A sad fact is that many retailers and readers won't even look beyond Marvel and DC's offerings. Plus, DC's financial resources have always been a big part of what's allowed Vertigo to thrive. Smaller publishers don't have that luxury. There have been rumors that with the recent shifts at DC, Vertigo has gotten less generous with their creators, but it remains to be seen how that shakes out. I still think Karen Berger is the key to the operation, though; if she gets phased out, it all collapses. Hopefully they're smart enough not to do that.
BUG: So to wrap this roundtable up, how about you guys give a few titles worth checking out from DC for those brave enough to make it to the end of this roundtable?
IMP: It makes me sad to say it, but I've gotten really burned out on DC over the past year. However, I will say that BOOSTER GOLD is currently a great, romping antidote for overly plotted, overly grim or just plain bad "events" going on with the GREEN LANTERN, BATMAN and SUPERMAN books.
SQUASHUA: As long as they don't cancel DOOM PATROL, R.E.B.E.L.S., and BOOSTER GOLD with the current writing teams, I'm happy. Morrison really requires a lot of thought to delve into his issues, but occasionally I feel that some key panels or "ah ha, that's when he did it" character actions are missing, so I'm not certain I'd recommend BATMAN INC for everyone. Also, we need the damn book prices lowered or qualified.
KLETUS: BATMAN by Tony Daniel, BATMAN INC by Morrison & Paquette, RED ROBIN by Nicieza & To, GREEN LANTERN (sometimes) by Johns & Mahnke, JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST by Winnick, Lopresti & Dagnino, JONAH HEX by Palmiotti & Gray. I'm looking forward to BATMAN & ROBIN with Tomasi & Gleeson ...
VROOM: Gail Simone's work on BIRDS OF PREY and SECRET SIX is fun, exciting, and very, very unpredictable. Over on the Vertigo side, FABLES continues to be one of the best comic books on the stands. And, while I'm not a big Morrison fan, the stuff he's putting Batman through and the changes he's making have the book at its most interesting since Frank Miller was tearing shit up in the 80's.
MATT: You can't go wrong with the comedy stylings of Giffen & DeMatteis on BOOSTER GOLD, and if you're a fan of their JLI run, you'll also want to check out JUSTICE LEAGUE: GENERATION LOST. I am personally loving the writing and art on LEGION OF SUPERHEROES right now. Gail Simone continues to kick butt on both SECRET SIX and the relaunched BIRDS OF PREY. I'm also really enjoying Dan Jurgens' TIME MASTERS miniseries and hope we continue to see work from him. Likewise, SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN was great, and I look forward to Gary Frank's next project. BATMAN INCORPORATED is off to a strong start. From the Vertigo side, FABLES and THE UNWRITTEN are consistently top-notch.
BUG: A GOD SOMEWHERE and JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK were two of the best reads of the year, period. Series-wise, Simone’s SECRET SIX and Snyder’s AMERICAN VAMPIRE are phenomenally fun month in month out. R.E.B.E.L.S. and RED ROBIN are fun underdog titles I can root for. I forgot to mention ZATANNA which is DC’s true flagship female character as long as Dini writes he like he has. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve liked everything that has to do with the current Batman situation hatched from Morrison’s dome. It took a while, but I’m a full fledged Bat-fan again.
HUMPHREY: Well, as always, anything Vertigo is worthwhile. The quantity may have shrunk, but the quality is still there with SCALPED, THE UNWRITTEN, and SWEET TOOTH taking up three of the top five spots for books I'm reading right now. THE FLASH is a no brainer and I'm liking the Bat-family books recently with BATWOMAN back and BATMAN INC. starting off well. Really liking Lemire's SUPERBOY run too, albeit being skeptical about his first real superhero run. Hopefully that keeps up because I feel like I'm a little DC light these days, at least when it comes to the mainstream books.
JD: I've been loving GREEN LANTERN, BATMAN INC, and for the love of Popeye's Pipe, pick up SCALPED! If you're missing out on Scalped, you're missing out on life, people. This is one of the grittiest, most intriguing books on the shelves today.
BUG: Well, if you’ve stuck around till the end of Day Two of the @$$Hole jawbone flap-a-thon, pat yourselves on the backs. That’s it on the @$$Hole’s thoughts on the Year In DC: 2010. Have a great and safe New Years, folks!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G