SPOILER ALERT: This column features some minor spoilers about recent events in comics, notably Flashpoint and Fear Itself. I’ve tried hard to not reveal big things, but if you haven’t read these comics yet, and if knowing things in advance bothers you, you might want to skip this column right now and come back in a couple of weeks. It will still be here.
by KC Carlson
It’s been an interesting 48 hours.
It all started Tuesday morning for me. My wife Johanna, who was trawling the internet, mentioned that rumors were spreading about DC relaunching their entire line of superhero comics in September… All starting over at #1… New creative teams and directions… Geoff Johns and Jim Lee doing JLA … I thought about it for a few minutes and realized that DC was rolling out the first issues of their current Flashpoint stunt the next day. Since the “buzz” for that “event” has been all over the place (some of it not good), it was pretty easy math to figure out the rest.
I told Johanna that DC was going to release this same information from a big media outlet later that day, that they had probably targeted that day for a long time, and that rumor sites probably got “leaked” this information from someone in media (rather than comics), which was why it was so detailed. Sure enough, the story was released a couple hours later in USA Today, and comic message boards exploded. In addition to the relaunch news came the information that all DC’s comics were going to be available digitally on the same date they were in print (“day & date”) — a first for either of the Big Two. (And more about the relaunch has been announced today as you can see here. – Roger)
There had been rumors and speculation that something big was up with DC for months. But it was all bits and pieces, and some of it sounded too big to be true. For me, anyway, a lot of what I was hearing sounded too farfetched to be accurate — or something that seemed beyond DC keeping secret. (DC being somewhat historically secret-challenged anyway. I was always amazed that a low-level former DC employee like me would hear big secrets on a fairly regular basis, but this time I was hearing next to nothing.) On the other hand, once I started working at DC in 1989 (and even before that, when I was reporting on DC for Westfield), I quickly realized that it was infinitely better (and actually more fun in a lot of ways) to keep the secrets I was being told, as it quickly became apparent to me that the comics field didn’t really have a lot of trustworthy people in it. Because the real secret of secret information is that if people know you to be trustworthy, you hear much better information. And frequently a lot of it.
The gig was up for DC several weeks ago when their August solicitation material went public. People started noticing that most of the product synopses clumsily talked about wrapping up storylines, and I started getting phone calls and emails from retailer friends wondering if I knew what was going on with DC. That’s when the speculation that DC may be rebooting a lot (or maybe all?) of their regular titles starting circulating around the internets. Of course, there was nothing concrete — DC was keeping their cards pretty close. I began to wonder (to myself) if much of this was based on the early reaction to the first wave of Flashpoint solicitations. I noted that a lot of (I assume) younger fans were intrigued by the possibilities of some of the alternative storytelling opportunities, while a lot of the (again, I assume) older (and more cynical fans) were responding with comments like “we’ve seen all this before” or “not another alternate universe!”
More than a few of my peers were saying things like, “I’ve never heard of many of these creators.” I was noting that there were a lot of books being written by DC editors and assistants — something that doesn’t happen all that often at DC. It also didn’t help that DC solicitations for the tie-ins (“Flash Fact: He’s more powerful than ever!”) were both remarkably annoying and incredibly unhelpful in making good decisions about purchasing these books. Personally, it was the first time in history that I wasn’t interested in pre-ordering any of the tie-ins to a major DC event. I was going to wait and check them out at the racks — something I quickly found out might be an iffy proposition, as more than one retailer told me that they weren’t ordering big on many of the tie-in books either, despite DC’s incentives.
As rumors began to swirl around about DC’s post-Flashpoint activities, the cynical, skeptical part of me was wondering if any of that was in response to DC seeing that their pre-order numbers for the first wave of Flashpoint tie-ins. They might not be the quantities they were expecting, which got them thinking of ways to goose reorders. And what better way to do that than to announce that the entire DC Universe was going to change and that (surprise!) Flashpoint was the place where it was going to start. This is why Tuesday’s big surprise announcement really wasn’t that much of a surprise to me.
RUNNING THE RACKS
But here’s the thing… it actually worked on me — at least in the short term. I got to the comics store early and picked up all four Flashpoint tie-ins (as well as the main event, which I was going to get anyway). I was lucky to get there when I did, because two of them were already in short supply and were probably going to sell out before day’s end.
I didn’t read anything immediately when I got home, as I had work to do first — I’ve got a 10 Things column due on Monday and I had a lot of prep work with the new Previews to do, so I could start the selection process of what I was going to be writing about. In my head, I’m calling it the “Lame Duck” 10 Things, because obviously the big story right now is next month’s DC solicitations, with their listing of 52 new #1 comic books (um… holy crap!), and probably the first official look at many of the creative teams. But there are still plenty of cool things for this month’s 10 Things, as you’ll find out when that column is posted on Monday (June 6).
MEANWHILE, ACROSS TOWN
As I was flipping through Previews, I was idly thinking about how DC was currently controlling this week’s comics news cycle, and that Marvel didn’t seem to have much to say this week. It suddenly dawned on me that I also had Fear Itself #3 in my new comics pile. I had just barely acknowledged it in the giant stack of comics I had picked up earlier. Wasn’t there supposed to be a major event (most likely a death) in Fear Itself #3? So I stopped what I was doing, pulled it out, and quickly read it. Sure enough, a major character dies in the issue.
The character’s death wasn’t that big a surprise for me (or probably a lot of Marvel fans who have been paying attention to various recent storylines), as I had predicted it in my head months ago (and was so sure that I was correct, that I actually forgot the actual event was happening this week). I fired off an e-mail to both Roger at Westfield and to Johanna that read:
There’s a major spoiler (major death) in Fear Itself #3. On top of everything else, DC also managed to take the discussion away from that as well.
They’re having a pretty good day. I wonder how long that will last.
re: Fear Itself #3 — I wasn’t surprised.
Johanna responded by asking me who died, and when I told her, she reported that a closely related character (that we both liked) had been killed off the week before in a book that we weren’t going to see for another few weeks (as it’s coming from Westfield — yes, we get comics from two different sources). I felt very sad. Johanna responded by writing this article at Comics Worth Reading (NOTE: Spoilers revealed at link.)
CAN YOU TOP THIS?
Roger responded, “I’m guessing this may affect that” (Boy, was I wrong. – Roger) and sent a link to a Comic Book Resources/Robot 6 posting showing a variant cover to Flashpoint #2 with Flashpoint Wonder Woman holding aloft the decapitated head of Mera. The posting is titled “Because Nothing Says Mainstream Comics Like a Good Decapitation”. Well said.
My reaction to this was a Seth Meyers-inspired “Really, DC?” Since I had a copy of Flashpoint #2 about six inches away, I grabbed and quickly read it as well. Amazingly, the decapitation scene doesn’t occur in the book at all (nice work, DC). However, we are treated to an extended scene of a de-powered Barry Allen trying to restore his powers with the help of grumpy alt-Batman. Barry either builds an electric chair (or grumpy alt-Batman just happens to have one in his basement), which leads to four pages of Barry setting this up and eventually being electrocuted. Several panels are lovingly devoted to seeing him being fried by the lightning, capped off with a full-page panel of crispy-fried Barry all burned up and as red as New Hulk. And probably dead. (I don’t feel this needed a spoiler as this is the main cover of the issue, and DC has been using it as promo for months.)
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Earlier that morning, I was catching up with several issues of the current “War of the Green Lanterns” storyline, where I was treated to the sight of my favorite Guardian (if one actually has such things) Ganthet’s hand being blown to Kingdom Come (no, not the DC event). Several times, too, as it had to be recapped (and that’s an unforgivable pun. Sorry.) in each subsequent issue.
Just a few minutes earlier in Fear Itself #3, that major Marvel hero is killed when the villain rips off his arm and beats him with it — which once upon a time was a punchline to an old joke, as well as almost the funniest sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but is now seemingly a regular occurrence in comics. Then, said soon-to-be-dead character is blasted at close range with an “evil ray” (actually named something else, but what’s the difference, really?) leaving a massive, seeping hole in his chest, which is thankfully partially hidden by the Black Widow’s hand — until soon-to-be-dead character heroically sweeps her hand aside, making sure we see the “money shot” of this horrible wound. I actually felt sorry for artist Stuart Immonen (my old friend) having to draw such a horrendous scene, but Stu is a professional, and it is beautifully illustrated, even though it made me sick to see it.
It seems that fans are always discussing what “age” of comics we are currently in, desperately trying to define recent comics history and assign it a metallic element to match the already well-known Golden, Silver, and Bronze ages. I humbly suggest that we just call it what it is — the Age of Death and Dismemberment — and be done with it. Perhaps we can all pitch in and hire someone to design a logo (I’m thinking Kyle Baker). Of course, it should depict someone swinging a dead cat.
I feel so old and tired these days reading current superhero comics. Yet I still love them. What’s wrong with me?
It’s been another 48 hours in comics.
KC CARLSON: More to come.
As always, WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.