Monday, February 20, 2012

Earth 2

Earth 2: DC has released images coming from their next wave of books, promoting an Earth -2 line. There's the book titled Earth-2 and then a "World's Finest" title featuring Power Girl and Huntress.

Most of the online chatter seems to be about Power Girl's costume redesign. Admittedly, this is a bad design. More uses of armor where it's not needed, extraneous seams for no purpose. I can understand getting rid of the boob window, but editorial mandate for covering the legs but allowing bare arms?  Who is this person in editorial that has a thing against sleeves?

Everybody seems so caught up on her breasts they don't realize the basic change in hers and Helena Wayne's characters that the cover suggests. Power Girl and Huntress were not ashamed of their pedigrees but they still debuted as women who forged their own identities and not to be immediately defined by or serve as reflections of their male mentors. Yet the cover suggests that on this new Earth-2, they were originally Supergirl and Robin. That lessens them more than changing her costume. She's had worse.

It's indicative of a slight double standard and message being sent. Look at the Batman family of books. In addition to Batman, the white men that are or were sidekicks and being featured in books: Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, Nightwing. Now, the Batman Family book featuring a man of African descent: Batwing. The ones featuring women: Batgirl, Batwoman. All direct reflection of the head of the tamily so to speak. And, now we have a character that originally debuted as a woman with her own identity but honoring the legacies of both mother and father being retconned as once being a sidekick with a white man's former identity.

And, with Power Girl, being her own woman and not riding Superman's coat-tails was part and parcel of the whole point of her. I will probably still check it out. Levitz is the writer who has some history with these characters and artwork's by Perez and Maguire so it will definitely look good.

On that note, it's hard to get optimistic about "Earth-2" by James Robinson. This is an alternate cover and it shows us yet another heavily redesigned Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Speculation is that they are legacies up there, Dick Grayson as Batman and who knows as the other two. Which of course was what his Justice League title was.

Then, there's this little line from the solicits: You may think you know Earth 2…but this is DC Comics – The New 52, where anything can happen!

Ok, the thing is, title something Earth-2 and there are reasonable expectations. Not only that, the whole point of Earth-2 was not simply an alternate Earth with an alternate history. It allowed DC to be new with Barry Allen as Flash, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern while EMBRACING their original history and heritage. It was about KEEPING as much history as they could. Over time, some changes and legacies came in, but it was always about maintaining a sense of history and what went before. You start making wholesale changes, and it's really no different than other titles. Especially right now with a freshly launched DCU. The main titles are already of a new universe that readers are getting acclimated to, including new histories and backgrounds featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The regular universe is already an "alternate universe" for readers as it's substantially different from what went before. You might be making use of the names and ideas, but it's not really the original characters. It should be noted that while Roy Thomas launched an Earth-2 legacy book in "Infiniti Inc." there was already a title in place and doing alright that was about the originals and history: "All-Star Squadron". Also, that first round of Infinitors, while legacy characters, they were not replacement characters. Like Power Girl and Huntress, they reflected their origins but they were their own identities. The originals were still around. Oh well.

Didn't take too long for them to return to type. The book is not even out yet but is already talked about mattering to the main continuity, that it will tie in to the main continuity down the road. Not a mistake that the cover has them fighting what looks like Parademons.

Meanwhile, that same month, hopefully you're keeping up with what's going on in one of the main Batman books as its plotline will highjack the story across the various Bat-family lines including the Jonah Hex book! So much for not trying to turn away potential new readers.

Also just reported, the re-launch has apparently hurt sales of the trade market. Are they really surprised? The comic book shared-universe business plan is built on a basic model driving sales. 1) The Collector mentality that has fans searching out back issues (and now trades and such)  and driving that 2) Past stories matter. Thus first issue appearances go up in value and highly sought after. The company rarely gets any of that money in the pre-Trade days but it helped their distributors' sales and helps make fans feel like they are part of the club, sharing and seeking after gems at shows and such.

I couldn't help but think at the time after "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and the subsequent reboots that came in the years after, this had to hurt back issue sales somewhat. After all, what does it matter what Krypto's first appearance was if he no longer existed? You have the company basically saying the character doesn't matter. Pre-Crisis Superboy and Supergirl? All the Legion of Super-Heroes reboots? Hawkman? At the time there was no real way to track that kind of effect since the trade market really didn't exist as it does now, but it seemed logical that if new stories weren't potentially fueling interest in the back-market, it would start dying down. The only possible evidence we have of it is the steady demise of the comic stores. One store I go to does a pretty good business on back-issues but he says it's because many stores don't make back-issues a priority any more.

Now, we have a strong trade market, reprinting everything not nailed down. We can see how rebooting and the company basically saying their old stuff doesn't matter can negatively impact sales of that same material, essentially drive down the value of their library. What will they learn from this if anything?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Prince Valiant vs Flash Gordon

One of the benefits of my prepress job at the old paper is being able to read the Sunday funnies again. Little over a month ago a new Prince Valiant arc began. Some things had changed since I last checked in, most notably, his wife Aleta apparently has real magical powers. The new storyline introduces an amnesiac blond giant that Aleta recognizes from some point when she was trapped in a limbo like realm. Meanwhile, I'm thinking I recognize the character only from a different strip. The week's strip reprinted above clinched it for me... it's Flash Gordon! Due to copyright and trademark concerns, I'm sure there's a reason why he's not outright identified, but it makes for a cool cross-over. The story is also quite interesting as Valiant, Gawain and Flash (called St. George after that famous dragonslayer) pursue a gigantic golem terrorizing the countryside. And, it's all done in clean, clear and detailed artwork that should really shame some current comicbook versions of the character, especially considering the strip is printed under far more restrictions (poorer paper-stock, less and inconsistent printing capability which means less color range and less resolution). Go here and you can read about many comics free. Check out the Phantom, Mutts and a few other strips while you're there.

Section Zero: Also under cool comic things that can be found on the web, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett are relaunching their too-quickly aborted Section Zero comic on the web. A labor of love being done in between paying gigs, right now it's re-releasing the pages from the published comic on  Thursdays a few at a time.  There's also some pages with notes and character sketches. I consider Grummett to be one of the top superhero artists working in comics today. So, I think it's a crime that he has free time to work on something like this. His work schedule should be kept full. Of course, I also think that this book should be on it's hundredth something issue right now.

Black Beetle: Not the DC villain character, this is a pulp fueled character from the mind of Francesco Francavilla who initially got his start serialized over time on his website and available for purchase as an ashcan. Dark Horse has wisely recognized him as an up and coming talent and is publishing a three part Black Beetle story in Dark Horse Presents #11 out April 18th. Get your orders in now!