by KC Carlson
1. DC Annuals: The DC Universe seems to have an interlude month of books this time around. There are no new major launches — not too surprising, given both the turmoil within their pages (The Return of Bruce Wayne, fresh starts for Superman and Wonder Woman) and real life (DC’s restructuring/further assimilation into Time Warner’s corporate structure, with the real-life fallout and uncertainty of people losing their jobs, moving across country, or some other unknown, which unfortunately has also wreaked havoc with their recent on-time scheduling). I haven’t commented much on this situation because the ultimate story (and its ramifications) is still unfolding, and I’m more concerned about old friends and colleagues possibly losing their jobs than the comics themselves.
But DC is still rolling on while all this is going on behind-the-scenes. This month, they’re putting some effort into the latest crop of Annuals. The big news is, of course, a legendary Legion of Super-Heroes creative team reuniting in the pages of Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1. Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen combine their talents for the first time in 20 years! They’re introducing a new Emerald Empress, one who possesses entire planets — and devastates the Legion in her wake. if you haven’t caught up with the latest Legion excitement, this might be a good place to start! . . . Also listed this month is a two-part Batman story (Detective Annual #12 and Batman Annual #28) featuring a Batman, Inc. recruitment story with both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as Batman. The story also guest stars The Question and introduces a new Bat-character. Both issues are by David Hine and Agustin Padilla . . . There are two stories in Action Comics Annual #13 starring Lex Luthor in early meetings with Darkseid and Ra’s al Ghul, and I don’t think they are team-ups . . . While not technically an Annual, the DC Holiday Special only happens once a year. The 2010 version features all-new time-spanning stories starring Superman, The Spectre, GL John Stewart, Jonah Hex, Anthro, and the Legion of Super-Heroes . . . I’m dreaming of an Orange Christmas in GL: Larfleeze Christmas Special #1 starring the Orange Lantern Corps — and Santa Claus! Aw, man… Is there going to be a lot of hugging? Ho! Ho! Humbug!
2. John Byrne’s Next Men #1: Originally one of the more interesting creator-owned series of the early 1990s, John Byrne’s Next Men abruptly ceased publication — with a cliffhanger! — and hasn’t been seen for 15 years. Well, the wait is over, as Next Men returns in December — right where it left off. The original series, which blended both science fiction and political intrigue with superheroics, features a group of super-powered youths originally raised in a idyllic VR environment. The original comics have also recently been collected by IDW (making it easy for those of you who never got the chance to experience the series first-hand to get caught up), the publisher of this new series, written and drawn by Byrne.
3. Marineman #1: I don’t know a lot about the series concept yet, but writer/artist Ian Churchill’s sample pages for his upcoming Image series are just gorgeous. I’ve enjoyed his previous work on Hulk and Supergirl, so I’m very interested in checking out this new series. In the plot description, Steve Ocean is a marine biologist and TV presenter, blessed with good looks and good friends. Sounds like a prefect life. But he has a mysterious secret. Churchill originally created the character 30 years ago, before his professional career started. By the looks of the ultra clean art and design, it seems like a great book for the return of classic heroic storytelling. It’s so refreshing to see a hero with a big smile on his face, as depicted on the cover to issue #1. I will definitely be checking out Marineman #1!
4. Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars: I can’t even pretend to do justice to the legend of Beau Smith and his new Wynonna Earp epic, The Yeti Wars. And, actually, I don’t have to, since Roger and Beau recently sat down to talk about it (or maybe they were standing… I don’t know… I wasn’t there…). That interview will be here on the blog any day now. In the meantime, I can give you the facts, Joe Friday style. Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars is an all-new 104-page graphic novel. Beau himself describes it as “a full color fistacular of fun,” because no one else would actually use the word “fistacular.” Descended from the famous lawman Wyatt Earp, Wynonna specializes in enforcing paranormal law, so she’s the right person to discover that Bigfoot (Sasquatch) and the Yeti (Abominable Snowman) are tearing it up in the wilds of Alaska during the worst blizzard in history. Toss in a mystery that impacts the entire Earp family and you have a butt-kickin’ classic in the making! Plus, it’s drawn by the great Enrique Villigran! As Beau further explains, “The Yeti Wars is truly The Brightest Day story of The Heroic Age.” (Beau, he’s a marketing genius!) But I gotta leave something for Beau and Roger to talk about, so let me stop with this thought — I’m tired of talking about Beau now. Please, do us all a favor and buy his book! (Hey, he’s signing all of the copies sold by Westfield!) Published by IDW .
5. Stan Lee’s Starborn #1: The third of the Stan Lee trilogy of new titles coming from Boom! Studios looks to be a classic Stan star-spanning space-epic! Benjamin Warner is a failed fantasy writer, always dreaming of far-flung space adventure and cosmic battle. When the return of a familiar face jars his memory, he realizes his rejected stories and daydreams aren’t fantasy — they’re history! He recovers memories of his home planet and becomes involved in galactic war. Based on Stan’s concepts , writer Chris Roberson and artist Khary Randolph combine for the next big space saga! Roger Ash recently spoke with Roberson, and you’ll see that interview here soon. Boom’s first issue will feature covers by Randolf as well as Gene Ha and Humberto Ramos.
6. B.B. Wolf and the Three LPs: The Lost Recordings: Already on the fast track for inclusion in the next edition of Rocklopedia Fakebandica, the legendary legend of B.B. Wolf and the Howlers continues as some of B.B.’s vintage lost recordings have recently resurfaced and are being made available on a special CD. It’s included with a release of B.B. Wolf and the Three LPs, the ground-shaking graphic novel based on the life of B.B. Wolf as told by writer J.D. Arnold and artist Rich Koslowski. For those of you who weren’t cool enough to catch it the first time around, B.B.’s story is a classic tale of racial injustice, murder, revenge, and music — and a lot of good ol’ huffin’ an’ puffin’! It may all sound familiar, but you’ve never heard this side of the story before. And now you can read along to some classic blues tunes, including “Rip It Up”, “Freight Train”, and “Sweet Baby Elle”! But be warned: this special edition CD is strictly limited to actual orders — so if you want it, you gotta get it now! Published by Top Shelf.
7. Gotham City: 14 Miles: The subtitle for this book is “14 Essays on Why the 1960s Batman TV Series Matters” and that pretty much says it all — except that the essayists include Chuck Dixon, Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperburg, Peter Sanderson, Will Murray, Timothy Callahan, all knowledgeable writers who know their Caped Crusader. The book contains essays comparing the show and the comics, the show’s actors and their portrayals, its villains, and its overall influence — not just on the comics, but pop culture itself. Edited by Jim Beard and published by Sequart, who have put out many other literary examinations of comic books including books about Watchmen, Grant Morrison, and my favorite, Teenagers From the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Highly recommended.
8. Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising: This is one of those books that I think will get lost in the flood of holiday releases, but it should be of unique interest for all pop culture fans, mixing as it does two “low” art forms: comics and advertising. Featuring the collision (or should that be “collusion”) between the two from the 1890s to the recent past, this book will showcase comic stars like the Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, Mickey Mouse, Peanuts, B.C., and Dagwood Bumstead shilling for coffee, motor oil, cars, soft drinks, and even atomic energy! Plus, there’s a look at the days when comic strip artists were celebrities themselves, as well as pitchmen (Pogo’s Walt Kelly selling cement?). Plus, examples of the world’s greatest cartoonists (including Milton Caniff and Noel Sickles) working (anonymously) in advertising. Dr. Seuss and Rube Goldberg sell stuff too! 128 pages, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard and published by Fantagraphics Books.
9. Comics on DVD: These were listed on the order form last month but you can still order them now! Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics is an all-new 90 minute documentary celebrating DC Comics’ 75 years of history by opening up the DC Archives and presenting material from the comics, films, and TV shows. I think these things always work best if they actually talk to the artists and writers who originally created the work (instead of the Hollywood- style executives who usually show up in these things to claim credit), and this documentary has Neil Gaiman, Geoff Johns, Dwayne Mc Duffie, and Grant Morrison, so that’s a good start. It’s also narrated by Ryan Reynolds, taking a day off from his Emerald Crusader duties. Available only in DVD format (at least for now).
DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam seems like it’s being done by popular demand for all those folks who have said “Gee, I wish I could see all the DC Showcase shorts (The Spectre, Jonah Hex, Green Arrow) without having to buy all the movies that they were originally attached to.” To entice those who did buy all those movies, there’s also a brand new extra-length (22 minutes) Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam short. Plus, the previous shorts are said to be “extended versions with never-before-seen footage”. Even so, the four cartoons together run only 63 minutes, a count that does not include the four included bonus cartoons (previously released and most likely episodes of Justice League Unlimited) featuring the same characters. The Blu-ray (only) has a special feature of commentaries for the new cartoons with Bruce Timm and selected creators. Choose your options wisely, grasshoppers.
Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (DVD only) is an 80-minute analysis of Morrison’s 30-year career in comics, including his groundbreaking work on series such as The Invisibles, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, JLA, Batman, and All-Star Superman. It also features interviews with Morrison’s collaborators and peers: Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Frank Quitely, Dan DiDio, Frazer Irving, Phil Jimenez, Cameron Stewart, Jill Thompson, and Mark Waid, as well as extensive interviews with Morrison himself. I’m greatly looking forward to this critical examination of Morrison’s work, as I’m often slow in comprehending his more complex works and am always looking for further insight into his writing. Directed by Patrick Meaney.
10. Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus Hardcover: I’ve been saving the best for last! I have been bursting at the seams to talk about this one since I found out about it back in February (from Walter himself, who immediately swore me to secrecy). This (are you sitting down?) 1,192-page hardcover collects the complete classic Thor run (issues 337-382, excepting a couple of fill-ins, plus Balder the Brave #1-4), which many consider the classic run of Thor. (It’s not just a book, it’s a weapon! Only true Thor fans can lift it.) The comics were completely written by Walter, with most issues drawn by him as well. But when Walter needed to step back a bit and just write the book, he chose Sal Buscemea to replace him on the artwork — and this also became one of Sal’s classic runs! — as well as one of the great historic Marvel collaborations! Here’s just some of the amazing storylines included here: The origins of Asgard! The death of Odin! The Casket of Ancient Winters! The introduction of Beta-Ray Bill! The sacrifice of the Executioner! The curse of Hela! And my (and everyone’s) favorite: Thor-Frog! And the villains — Loki! Lorelei! The Midgard Serpant! Malekith the Dark Elf! Surtur! Fin Fang Foom! The Destroyer! Kurse! And more!
Here are a few production secrets that you won’t hear elsewhere: Almost the entire book is being re-scanned from the original artwork. (Walter called all his inkers to track down original pages he himself didn’t have!) The book is being “remastered” (with extensive art touch-ups and corrections) under Walter’s direct supervision (including the re-scanning), which includes such detail work as removing the UPC boxes from the covers to expose the original, unseen artwork underneath. Plus, the entire book has been fantastically re-colored by Steve Oliff, who reassembled many of the original Olyoptics crew to work on the project. With this much care and attention, not only is this book a fantastic read, it is going to be one of the best-looking archival books in recent memory. It is going to glow!
Marvel’s got a lot of Thor-related books on its schedule these days. Don’t let the Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus get lost in the shuffle. It’s a little pricey (did you see that page count?!), but it will be worth every penny. It collects almost four years of epic material by many of comics’ top creators working in their prime on an unforgettable story cycle. It’s not unlike reading the original epic sagas of the gods (without having to worry about that brittle and smelly old parchment)!
Bob Greenberger is going to take a more in-depth look at the original Simonson Thor stories in his upcoming preview of the book. Watch for it soon on the blog (as well as information about a new Roy Rogers newspaper strip collection).
KC CARLSON: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.