A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Tag: Bob Harras

Flashpoint vs. Fear Itself: A Much-Needed Win (So Far) for DC

Flashpoint #1

Like most comics readers, I’m getting weary of big events. And the promotional materials for Flashpoint did absolutely nothing to interest me in this series. I’ve never been a big fan of The Flash, the premise of the crossover was, at best, murky, and the sheer number of spinoff miniseries and specials was disheartening.

But I have to admit that when I sat down and read Flashpoint #1 (DC Comics, 40 pages, color, $3.99), I really enjoyed it. (Full disclosure: DC’s publicity folks sent me a copy.) And having found little to enjoy in the DC Universe of late, it was nice to find an enjoyable way back in.

I can’t deny that there’s a weird bit of nostalgia at work. This is an alternate universe crossover, with cool art by Andy Kubert and Bob Harras at the helm. It’s like a flashback to 1995 and the Age of Apocalypse, which was easily the most fun crossovers of this type and an archetype for Flashpoint. I doubt I’ll pick up many of the spinoffs, but I will definitely be back for Flashpoint #2.

Fear Itself #2

The other major summer event is Marvel’s Fear Itself. Again, thanks to event fatigue, I hadn’t paid much attention to the advance marketing on this book. This is a nice-looking book, with Fear Itself #1 and #2 (Marvel, color, $3.99 each) showing the Asgardians returning to Asgard, Odin being a jerk to Thor and a bunch of mystic hammers falling to Earth and empowering those who pick them up with the power to glow like Tron.

It’s OK, though my first thought was I’d already seen this kind of thing in Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s  JLA-Avengers crossover a few years back and even in last year’s Blackest Night. It also just feels more like a concept suited to a Marvel videogame than a major summer crossover, but that’s likely just me. This isn’t to say that Fear Itself is bad or that Flashpoint is good, but it is interesting how it’s the intangibles that make one stand out — even if just slightly and for a moment — over another.

P.S.: I’m not dead, a.k.a., I’m back and have some stuff to say about comics

As you can tell by the time stamps, I’ve been otherwise occupied for a while. I’ve been immersed in animation, writing news for Animation Magazine Online and long-features for The Hollywood Reporter on the making of some of the year’s biggest hits. I’ve also had some personal developments, namely preparing to become a father when my wife and I welcome our daughter later this spring.

And while I’ve been keeping up somewhat with today’s comics, the quality of what I’m reading has failed to inspire the kind of excitement that would compel me to rush to the keyboard.

But since comics have co-opted a large portion of my brain for most of my life, I just can’t give them up and find myself constantly drawn back to them.

These are interesting times for comics and 2011 promises to be one of the most volatile years for the business side since the not-so-fun days of the mid-1990s. This past week alone saw a few news events of note:

  1. The death rattle of the Comics Code Authority. The code has long been irrelevant to comics. The last time I recall it even being worth mentioning was in the early 1990s when Milestone Media announced it would submit all its books to the code but would publish them with or without approval. Once their books came out, the seal seemed to appear at random — one issue, gone the next, then back again — and proved its irrelevance. Marvel dropped it almost 10 years ago, with the rest of the publishers slowly dropping it until only DC and Archie were left — and they both dropped it last week. It seems DC stuck with the code for so long because Paul Levitz, now departed as publisher, wanted to keep it. Now, with a new cost-conscious regime in place at DC, the fees DC paid to keep the code are obviously better spent elsewhere. More on the new DC (and Marvel) later. 
  2. The end of Wizard Magazine’s print edition, to be replaced shortly by yet another online iteration. This should surprise no one, but I think a lot of people were shocked enough to lose Wizard as a punching bag for the ills of the industry to reflect on how influential this magazine once was and how few people seemed to be reading it at this point. In the 1990s, it was required reading, and it remained a good bathroom or airplane read for quite a while afterward. Wizard would have stood a better chance of survival had it treated its employees and relationships with the rest of the industry with a bit more respect. I find it kind of funny that the Comics Buyer’s Guide, which in the past 10 years adopted a cost-effective take on the Wizard format, is still standing. 
  3. The comic book movie train continues to roll along at full speed. Three Marvel films are on the way this summer: Thor, Captain America and X-Men: First Class. DC has Green Lantern, with a big 2012 in the works with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Zack Snyder’s new Superman movie. How long this will continue, I don’t know, but that’s a lot of superhero movies and all show potential from what little we’ve seen so far. 
  4. There has been a lot of chairs and titles shifting hands. Former Marvel editor in chief Bob Harras takes over the same job at DC after more than a year working in other parts of the business. At Marvel, Joe Quesada rises to chief creative officer, holding the editor in chief’s chair out for Axel Alonso, who will be ably assisted by new VP of something or other Tom Brevoort. L.A.-based Top Cow reorganizes a bit, handing off some of its business operations to the central office at Image Comics. 

And yet none of these changes have been able to keep the major publishers’ superhero lines from getting noticeably more stale from month to month — with decreases in sales to match.

There are a few interesting signs of life out there, but it’s the need to put on my critical hat and chime in with my two cents here and there on the creative and commercial problems facing comics. To avoid boring people to death, I’ll space it out into multiple posts, hopefully bringing some life back to the blog once again.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue the Fantastic Four Re-Read Project. I’d like to, but accessing those books is a little tough right now and I would like to see if there’s another way to build some blogging momentum before I try to go back to that pool. I have one unfinished post that I’ll take a look and then we’ll see …

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