Up, up and away! A place for comic-book fans to gather.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Waiting for the trade paperback - or the DVD

I talked today to Hugh Sterbakov and actor Seth Green, co-creators of Top Cow’s “Freshmen.” The second “Freshmen” miniseries is due in November. While the sales of the first series weren’t as good as they had hoped, the trade paperback collecting that first series is selling better than anticipated, which is what caused Top Cow to green-light a second series.

“We’re in this really weird new marketplace,” Green noted. Instead of hitting the comic-book shop every week or month for that new issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” or whatever, many readers are waiting for the trades. And it’s not just a comic-book trend, Green points out. Miss a few episodes of “Prison Break” or “Lost,” and you may just tune out and wait for the DVD of that season, which will come just months later.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Will "Superman Returns" top the box office?

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly has EW’s box-office predictions for this summer. The magazine expects “Superman Returns” to be box-office king with a predicted take of $300 million.

It’s a movie, the magazine says, that should appeal to both 8-year-olds and their 80-year-old grandparents. I wonder, though, about those in the middle. Will teens and young adults regard Superman as too square and too wholesome compared to, say, the brooding character of Batman or the ferociousness of Wolverine? On the other hand, TV’s “Smallville,” with a teenage Clark Kent, is a hit, so maybe that’s a sign.

Speaking of Wolverine, “X-Men: The Last Stand” comes in at No. 3 in EW’s predictions with a take of $240 million.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Steel gets a chance to shine in "52"

Some lesser-known characters will be getting the spotlight in “52,” the ambitious, 52-part, weekly series from DC.

“52” bridges the gap from “Infinite Crisis” to DC’s One Year Later books, which jumped a year ahead in time. It’s a year without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman — which gives a chance to shine the spotlight on some other heroes. Heroes such as Steel, who became the protector of Metropolis for a while after Superman died back in the 1990s. (If you haven’t heard, Superman got better.)

John Henry Irons, aka Steel, is a favorite of “52” editor Stephen Wacker, who I interviewed via e-mail for this Sunday’s Comics Fan column.

“He wanted to help people, so he built a suit of armor,” Wacker said. “What’s simpler? There aren’t a lot of characters created in the last 20 years you can imagine someone looking to for inspiration. Steel is one of them.”

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Freshmen" heads for another semester

I received a copy of the "Freshmen" trade paperback from Top Cow today, which collects all six issues of the superheroes-in-college miniseries. Top Cow recently announced plans for a sequel coming by the end of the year. "Freshmen" was created by Huge Sterbakov and his buddy, actor Seth Green, seen in the Austin Powers movies, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and elsewhere. I'll be talking to the two by phone this week, so if you're a "Freshmen" fan with a burning question, let me know.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Calling all Superman fans

Last year, just before “Batman Begins” hit theaters, we did a Life cover in The Gazette on Batman, exploring the character and talking to some local fervent fans. With “Superman Returns” coming up, we plan to give Superman the same treatment. I’ve already found one big Superman fan here in town, but I’m looking for more. So if you can wax poetic about the first and greatest superhero, if you wish you could still run around town with a towel for a cape around your neck like you did when you were a kid, if you think Superman is still relevant in a time when more gritty, down-to-earth characters have taken root, let me know. E-mail me at comics@gazette.com.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Product placement comes to comics

The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday on product placement in comics. Marvel, for example, has been putting the Nike “swoosh” logo in scenes in some of its titles. And in “Rush City,” a miniseries coming from DC, the hero will be shown driving a Pontiac Solstice in a deal with General Motors.

The story quotes Chuck Rozanski, founder of Mile High Comics, as saying such hidden ads “taint the experience” of comic-book reading. If such deals mean perhaps stalling the next comics price increase — and as long as the product placement doesn’t interfere with the story — I don’t have a big problem with it. In a way, it’s nice to know the advertising world recognizes comics are still around and are a way to reach a young audience. But we better not see the spider symbol on Spider-Man’s costume replaced with a swoosh.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

All hail the "King" in July

A day after DC released its solicitations for July, Marvel has followed suit. The events of “Civil War” will dominate Marvel’s July comics, including playing a role in the big wedding between Storm and Black Panther in “Black Panther” No. 18.

There’s also the first issue of a new “Ghost Rider” series, “Halo, the Graphic Novel,” inspired by the incredibly popular video-game series, and the first issue of “Jack Kirby’s Galactic Bounty Hunters,” based on characters and concepts created by the late Jack “King” Kirby. I’m hoping to write columns on the latter two as they draw closer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Get ready for "The All-New Atom"

DC Comics this afternoon posted its solicitations for July. There are exciting new teams on “Batman” and “Detective Comics” and some new series, including “Omac,” “Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters” and “The All-New Atom.”

That last, as the title indicates, features someone other than Ray Palmer as the Atom. I asked DC executive editor Dan DiDio about the change a month or two ago. DC tried to replace Oliver Queen as Green Arrow and Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and neither change stuck, so why replace Ray, the Atom many of us grew up with? His answer: “Ray Palmer as a character never really supported his own series for an extended period of time, and if any character seemed like we could make some changes and do something new, this seemed to be the character.”

I’m most jazzed in July about the return of “Justice League of America,” with Brad Meltzer writing. Meltzer basically tore apart the Justice League with his “Identity Crisis” miniseries. Now he gets the chance to build the JLA back up.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A wedding dress for Storm

Storm’s dress for her upcoming wedding to the Black Panther in July’s “Black Panther” No. 18 has been revealed in, of all places, TV Guide. The April 17 issue of TV Guide, on sale now, shows the dress. So what’s the TV connection? The dress was designed by Shawn Dudley, costumer designer for the CBS soap opera “Guiding Light.”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Spider-Girl" heads for the big finish

Writer Tom DeFalco joined the comics press today for a Marvel teleconference on DeFalco’s upcoming “Last Planet Standing” miniseries and the 100th issue of “Spider-Girl.”

That 100th issue is slated to be the end for a series that has been on the brink pretty much since the start. “The title has lasted a lot longer than any of us ever thought, a heck of a lot longer than any of us thought,” DeFalco said.

Spider-Girl’s adventures are set in an alternate future universe. “Last Planet Standing” is also set in the MC2 universe, and the miniseries may mean the end to that universe. Or it may not: DeFalco said he has yet to write the last few pages.

Clark Kent flying high

The 8-part story “Up, Up and Away!” running through “Superman” and “Action Comics” is the best Superman story I’ve read in some time - even though there’s been no sign of Superman so far.

The story, part of DC’s One Year Later that jumps all of DC’s titles a year into the future, finds Clark Kent has been without his Superman powers for that missing year. In Part III, in this week’s “Superman” No. 651, Clark is offered the chance to fight crime with a Green Lantern ring, but he declines. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, who has shed any attempts at respectability, is hatching some nefarious plot.

There’s a wonderfully written scene between Clark and Lois Lane, who seems pretty happy with the new status quo. “It’s been new for me, having a partner I don’t have to share with the world,” Lois says. “Who isn’t someone ... I can never completely touch.”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Defining drama in the DC universe

I talked to DC Comics executive editor Dan DiDio today for the story I’m doing on religion in comics. I took the opportunity to also ask him about the DC universe following the big “Infinite Crisis” miniseries that ends soon.

There had been talk that the DC universe would be a brighter, happier one after the dark days of “Infinite Crisis” and the earlier “Identity Crisis.” And as DC’s books have jumped a year ahead in time with the big One Year Later event, there does seem to be a bit brighter tone. Batman, for example, is a lot less prickly.

DiDio, though, says there was never any intent to make the DCU a sunnier one. The goal of “Infinite Crisis” was to put DC’s heroes through their darkest day and have them emerge triumphant. But happy? Nope.

Happy, content characters don’t make for interesting stories, DiDio says. “You need that level of conflict, you need that level of exploration.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Testing your Superman I.Q.

Superman’s flying high on the cover of the latest Entertainment Weekly. The issue features “The Great American Pop Culture Quiz,” including a breakout Superman quiz. I got nine out of 10 right; I missed the one on the get-rich scheme that links “Superman III” and “Office Space.” And don’t skip the last page in the magazine: It has an “extra credit” exam which involves identifying superheroes from close-up sections of their costumes.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The science behind superheroes

Did you see the story in Sunday’s Gazette about the “Science of Superheroes” class at the University of Calfornia-Irvine? One thing it didn’t mention is the new Marvel Super Heroes Science Exhibition at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

You can become a real life Iron Man by stepping into an exo-skeleton machine to lift a nearly 2,500-pound vehicle. Learn how lightning is created and calculate the distance of a thunderstorm in the Storm exhibit. Learn about the elasticity and strength of spider webs in, yep, you guessed it, the Spider-Man exhibit.

There’s also a time line that covers the history of Marvel Comics and a filmed interview with the legendary Stan Lee. The exhibition is open until Sept. 4 and sounds like it’s really fun - and educational, too, of course.

Friday, April 07, 2006

From "Virgin" to "Civil War"

A big comic-book morning for me. I talked to Steven T. Seagle about his “American Virgin” and took part in a Marvel teleconference about “Civil War.” Mark Millar, writer of the “Civil War” miniseries, was the guest of honor; I loved hearing his Scottish accent. Editor Tom Brevoort was also on the line and echoed a thought I’d been having about “Civil War” vs. DC’s big event, “Infinite Crisis.” “Infinite Crisis” is about the DC universe and parallel worlds and shifting realities. “Civil War” reflects real-world arguments about civil rights vs. public safety. Don’t get me wrong — I love DC’s characters. But the two books do reflect the companies’ differences. Marvel’s heroes, as Brevoort noted, have always been grounded more in the real world.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Death rocks the DC universe

(Warning: Read no further if you picked up “Infinite Crisis” No. 6 at your comic-book shop yesterday but haven’t read it yet.)

Break out the hankies. Twenty years after Supergirl was killed in “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” another member of the Superman family has died. This time, Superboy dies saving the universe in the sixth issue of DC’s “Infinite Crisis.” This death didn’t pack as much punch for me as the first. While I grew up reading Supergirl’s adventures, I never got that interested in the modern-day Superboy (who is, or was, NOT Superman as a boy but a clone derived partly from Superman’s DNA.) Still, it was an emotional moment.

Also out this week: The Teen Titans join DC’s jump one year ahead with issue No. 34. I liked it better than a lot of the One Year Later titles because instead of cryptic references to the missing year, there was a fair amount of explanation of what had transpired. And friends of the old “Superfriends” cartoon will get a big kick out of a couple of new characters aiding the Titans.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Religion and comics and the Islamic view

I talked to comics writer Fabian Nicieza today for the story I’m doing on religion in comics. Well-known to American readers for his work for Marvel and others, he’s also co-writer of “The 99,” an upcoming series from Kuwait-based Teshkeel Comics. It features the world’s first superhero team based on Islamic culture and history, but is NOT a religious comic book, the company says. The heroes’ powers are based on the attributes of Allah, such as strength, truth and wisdom, but if you’re a non-Muslim reader, you’ll probably just see them as cool powers. “Don’t go into it expecting some kind of jingoistic agenda, because you’re not going to get it,” Nicieza says.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Learning all about the X-Men

I don’t get a lot of packages via Royal Mail from Great Britain, but one such package arrived today. Inside: an advance, review copy from London-based Titan Books of “Comics Creators on X-Men.” I’ve only had a chance to skim it, but it looks like a must-get for any true X-Men fan. It contains interviews with the key writers and artists who have worked on the X-Men over the years, beginning with the legendary Stan Lee. And there are plenty of cool bonuses, such as original script pages by Chris Claremont, character sketches by Dave Cockrum and original pencils by Alan Davis and others. The only thing lacking is color inside. Look for the book to be released late this month.