by KC Carlson
Well, as they used to say: That Was The Year That Was. And. It. Was. A. Year. Period. I can say no more.
Since I found much of 2011 in comics particularly difficult (and occasionally depressing) to look back at — and also because everybody else is looking back this week — I though it might be fun/illuminating/excruciating to look at some of what we already know about 2012.
SOME “MOVING” STORIES
The biggest battle in comics this coming summer may not have anything to do with comic books — or may have everything to do with comic books. And guess what? The fight ain’t happening in comics!!! Nope, it’s going to be the Box Office Battle of the Titans of Comic Book Movies — The Avengers (scheduled release date: May 4, 2012) vs. Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012). The Avengers is the underdog in this fight, since this is the first installment of the superhero team-up — although the film has been in development since 2005 and many of the component parts (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) have been carefully coordinated and released gradually over the past few years. Besides the firepower on screen, The Avengers’ secret weapon may be fan-favorite director Joss Whedon, who’s also no stranger to great comic book scripting.
Batman is an old hand in the movie biz, first appearing on screen in 1943 in a 15-chapter self-titled film serial. Modern fans only start considering “serious” Bat-films beginning with 1989’s Tim Burton-directed Batman. (Sorry, Adam and Burt. You’re too 1966!) All told, Batman: The Dark Knight Rises is the Dark Night Detective’s 8th live-action feature film (not counting the two serials and plenty of non-theatrical animated films). This one’s hot-on-the-heels (relatively speaking) of two mega-box office and critical hits, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), both directed (and co-written) by Christopher Nolan, who’s three-peating on Batman: The Dark Knight Rises. (I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there may be some serious money riding on the side with folks wondering if Batman: The Dark Knight Rises will be the first “3rd film” in a DC franchise to not suck. Sounds like a good bet to beat the long odds!)
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking beyond deciding which one to see. You know we’re all going to see both of them. The real question is: how many times each?!
Taking a cue from a not-always-great comic book trope is the first of two major comic book movie franchise reboots. July 3, 2012, is the scheduled date for The Amazing Spider-Man — the fourth theatrical film featuring Web-Head, but the first in a rebooted series. It stars Andrew Garfield as Spidey, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors (guess who?). The release date puts this up against Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (they’re scheduled to debut 17 days apart), but thematically, The Amazing Spider-Man’s closest competition will most likely be 2013’s Man of Steel, Warner Bros.’ attempt to once again reboot the Superman movie franchise. That film has an all-star cast, director Zack Snyder (Watchman), and Christopher Nolan credited as a producer, as well as co-story with screenwriter David S. Goyer. “You’ll believe a man can fly — over and over again until we get it right!”
I’m also slightly amused by the upcoming Men in Black/Jonah Hex crossover. (Not really, but both star Josh Brolin.) And Marvel just canceled the comic book, so it must be time for a new Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance movie. Anybody not think there won’t be a different Ghost Rider comic out in time for the film — one more like the film?
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE COMICS… A MARVELOUS YEAR
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a “down” economy (or at least “iffy”) for a while now, and last year, it finally started hitting comics fairly hard. All comics sales are down, although the traditional strong sellers are better off than lower-selling comics — which are the more “fan-favorite” titles. Also, while the core titles of event projects are doing relatively okay, the distant tie-in books, not so much. It probably didn’t help that both of 2011’s biggest events (Fear Itself, Flashpoint) each had over 50 comic books comprising the event. That’s just way too many — and maybe Marvel and DC are finally figuring that out. Initial reports indicate that the upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event may only spill into a small number of core tie-in books — although there currently is a prelude miniseries (Avengers: X-Sanction), which so far seems to be playing a waiting game for other series to wrap up, notably Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. It, as well as X-Men: Schism and Fear Itself, are most likely going to be important to what’s going to happen in Avengers vs. X-Men, according to the old Magic 8-Ball.
Anyway, with economic issues and discretionary income stretched thin, watch for comics (especially the Big Two) to publish fewer non-commercial, experimental series and characters and stick pretty closely to “Big Gun” projects. Especially with current movie tie-ins. If your favorite characters are Avengers, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men (no movie, but the franchise is being overhauled in Regenesis branding), then this is your year, bucko!
Depending on how you look at it, the story of Marvel in 2012 might be having to do without. Brian Michael Bendis is leaving his role of long-term “Architect” of the Avengers titles for more than seven years. Although even some of his biggest fans have been getting restless of late with Bendis on the books — I want to somehow reach into the books and throttle Bendis’s version of the MU Spider-Man. Who. Just. Won’t. Shut. Up. — you still have to admit that it’s been a remarkable achievement of longevity, as well as reclaiming the Avengers franchise as one of Marvel’s best. But what’s going to happen when Bendis steps aside after his part of Avengers vs. X-Men is finished?
You might ask the same thing of Jason Aaron’s soon-to-be-done run on Wolverine. Although, there, the blow is slightly softened by his creation of Wolverine and the X-Men, the extremely askew new mutant-team book (and my current fave superhero title). There is going to be some musical chairs with creators and long-running titles at Marvel later this year. As always, this could be really exhilarating… or really scary!
Finally, all you Monster Truck fans will be pleased to know that brand-new Captain America and Wolverine Monster Trucks will make their debut in 2012, joining the existing Spider-Man and Iron Man (two different models!) on the Monster Jam circuit! (Now waiting for the inevitable crossover with Truck-o-Saurus! Yee-HAW!!!)
NOT MUCH DC 4 ME
At DC, they don’t really have any specific upcoming big event lined up (or at least announced) — although the New 52 was big enough to hold everybody’s attention for a few months. Inevitably, something will come up. Maybe their new version of Crisis, since they sorta said that the original Crisis never happened in the New 52 — although I’m not sure that everybody got the memo about that. Otherwise, DC’s been pretty mum on upcoming new projects, other than a new Justice Society book by James Robinson, which I would have been excited about, except that I read his Justice League and Superman series last year. I’m not taking it all that personally, but I’m pretty sure that DC Comics doesn’t want old readers like me reading their books any more. Which is fine for me, since there are a couple of other publishers out there right now doing some projects that I’d like to be financially supporting more than DC’s current efforts. I’m not going away mad — there are still a few characters/creators/titles that I’ll continue to follow — but with almost 50 years of DC reading and collecting behind me, most of this new stuff is just not the same. Sadly, DC provided a jumping off point for me with the New 52.
One upcoming DC effort that I won’t go near is their rumored new Watchmen-related project. I’m sort of afraid that most folks are going to think that it’s some sort of sequel to the original acclaimed Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. (Although anyone who was really paying attention would realize that there couldn’t possibly be a real sequel without totally destroying the integrity of the original story. Not that this would matter much to DC. The Time Warner legal department and DC Marketing and Editorial would probably refer to this as “a piffle”.) No, what they’re probably working on is a “prequel” to the original — meaning a story revolving around the pre-Watchmen superhero team The Minutemen, which beyond the depression and depravity surrounding this group, should be about as gripping as an old Justice Society or Invaders story — except without the excitement of World War II. There will probably be some cool toys and an eye-melting video game. And maybe an authentic complete face-covering Rorschach mask — guaranteed to smother all those already brain-dead fans who don’t give a lick about creator rights. Hey, maybe they won’t bother with a comic book at all. Those wacky Time Warners (and their sister, Dot)!
If I have to buy an Alan Moore project in 2012, I hope it will be the long-awaited The Bojeffries Saga collection from Top Shelf. This wonderful whacked material, illustrated by Steve Parkhouse, has been out of print for far too long!
WHAT WILL I BE BUYING?
A lot of the money that I won’t be spending on the New 52 or the “new” Watchmen will be devoted to recent series of classic comic strips and vintage comic books collections. I was already buying the ongoing Peanuts reprints (Fantagraphics). Bloom County (IDW) is done, but there’s still more Breathed to come in Outland and Opus this year. Plus, I’m getting most of the vintage Archie Comics material from both IDW (artist best-ofs and classic series retrospectives) and Dark Horse (Archie Archives, collecting Archie’s Golden Age period).
Recently started are new series of the classic Mickey Mouse newspaper strip by Floyd Gottfredson (Fantagraphics), Pogo by Walt Kelly (Fantagraphics again), and the new Donald Duck by Carl Barks collections (Fantagraphics for the hat trick) — paired with the new series collecting Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which will be starting later this spring. I noticed that IDW is finally putting some of their long out-of-print collections back into print — like Dick Tracy — so I’ll be looking at possibly getting back to that series after drifting away. Plus, I still have two more great volumes about Alex Toth coming eventually from IDW.
DC may still be getting some of my money if they keep on their recent trend of finally getting to some classic (if esoteric) material in their DC Archives line, like Sugar and Spike and Lois Lane by Kurt Schaffenberger, or tasty obscura in their Showcase Presents series, such as The Losers war series or DC’s romance comics line. I’m even up for getting quality books of material I already own — like the recent Jim Aparo Brave & Bold Batman (Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo) collection, since the originals were printed on paper so thin that not even Kleenex could blow its nose on it.
Same goes for Marvel. I’m still picking up Sgt. Fury or Marvel western heroes as Marvel Masterworks whenever they’re published, but what I really want (and will probably never get) is Dan DeCarlo’s 1950s Marvel work — primarily Millie the Model, but also lost gems like Sherry the Showgirl and My Friend Irma. Both the Big Two have wonderful stuff locked away in their archives and vaults, but the popular kids (and moneymakers) like Batman and Spider-Man must always get reprinted first. I understand and am okay with that. Because the more Batman collections that get sold, there’s a better chance that DC might spring for the occasional off-the-wall treat. Same goes for Marvel.
If you haven’t noticed lately, this is a wonderful time for fans of classic newspaper strips, as well as great kids’ comics. Also, Dark Horse has been publishing SF/vintage heroes from Gold Key comics (Magnus, Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar, etc.), classic horror series Creepy and Eerie, and is about to start collecting the vintage Crime Does Not Pay. Later this year, Fantagraphics takes over publishing rights to the classic E.C. library of horror, SF, and war comics. It’s always nice to be reminded that comic books used to be so much more than just superheroes.
This is just the tip of the comic book iceberg. Who knows what secret 2012 projects publishers are sitting on to reveal at the major comics conventions this year? Maybe, just maybe, this may be the first year that comics fans don’t have to illegally download Miracleman/Marvelman comics! (Although, I wouldn’t hold my breath…)
KC CARLSON: Reading comic books since 1960. And, boy, are my eyes tired.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.