Category Archives: Editorials

Credit Report

When it comes to other-media adaptations of notable (and more obscure) Marvel and DC characters, there’s a growing push toward providing creator credits with such movies and television shows. Marvel’s movie and television arms seem to have settled on an opening credit of “Based on the comics by XX and YY,” generally referring to the writer and penciller who worked on a titular character’s first appearance, with a “special thanks to…” closing credit for creators whose characters and/or stories were included or mined to construct the filmed fare. Those credits, while a positive step forward, nevertheless still fall short, given their non-specificity (and one could easily argue a real acknowledgement of such past creative efforts should come in a monetary form).

When it comes to DC Comics characters on the big and small screens, character-creation credits have definitely gone a bit further. The list of comics creator credits showing up in the closing credits of DC films, live-action TV shows and animated productions has been growing steadily in recent years. I recently watched the direct-to-video Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay animated movie, and I was struck by the creators listed in the closing credits, giving a nod to those who conceived of and introduced a dozen characters in DC (and even Charlton) comics in years past.

Though initially impressed by these acknowledgements, I quickly realized it was sadly lacking as well.

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Superman Isn’t the Only Action Hero

The comics industry — at least the one in North America — achieves a significant milestone this week with the release of Action Comics #1000. It’s not just that it’s the first title in this marketplace to achieve that long a run, but it’s also because of what that title represents. Action Comics #1 in 1938 introduced Superman and spawned an entire genre of fiction, one that now dominates pop culture. Sure, Superman wasn’t necessarily the first costumed hero — there were others in the pulps before him — but the Man of Steel resonated with an audience in a way no other adventure hero had before.

But as we celebrate this moment 80 years in the making, it’s worthy to note Superman didn’t lead us on this cultural journey alone. Action Comics #1 also introduced Zatara the Magician, and that character’s legacy lives on in Zatanna, who’s broken through in pop culture as well, albeit to a lesser degree than Superman. Other characters joined them in the initial anthology issue: Chuck Dawson; Pep Morgan; Sticky-Mitt Stimson; Scoop Scanlon, five-star reporter; and Tex Thomson (later Mr. America and the Americommando) among them.

As I looked back on my four decades of memories of Action (half of its unprecedented run), it occurred to me my favorite stints weren’t linked exclusively to Superman stories, but rather to issues that included and involved a diverse array of DC characters.

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Causes of Death

Warner Bros. Animation has announced its next direct-to-movie film will be The Death of Superman, an adaptation of the classic comic-book story from late 1992 that saw the Man of Steel “killed” by the monstrous Doomsday. The followup will be an adaptation of the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline, which saw four replacement Supermen arise and the “real” Man of Tomorrow restored to life.

In a genre in which super-hero deaths were commonplace and quickly reversed, it was nevertheless historic. While comics are much more mainstream today, in 1992, they were still maligned black sheep of pop culture, but despite that, the notion of Superman’s death captured the imaginations of people all over the globe, sending droves of people, those interested in comics and those who weren’t, in droves to comic shops. Some were curious, some were speculating, but it was undeniably a cultural phenomenon.

As such, it makes sense Warner Bros. would eye those storylines for other-media adaptation. There’s just one problem: it’s already done it.

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Poster Parting Depression


During my junior year of university, the above image adorned one wall of my small dorm room. The massive piece of art, the noted Marvel Universe poster with art by penciller Ed Hannigan and inker Joe Rubenstein, was actually a collage of his cover artwork from the first 12 issues of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe limited series, over the course of 1982 to 1984 (the total run was 15 issues, with the last three focusing on dead characters and weapons)..

The poster, measuring 50 inches by 50 inches (more than 16 square feet), would’ve been released in 1988 — oddly enough, after the followup index series, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition had wrapped up. Of course, since different artists ultimately contributed cover artwork for that second series while Hannigan handled all of the covers for the original series, I suppose it made more sense to release his work as a poster (albeit updated to reflect some additions and costume changes).

Alas, sometime during my university days, or perhaps as they came to an end, I misplaced the poster, packed up safely in its original hard cardboard tube. I left it behind somewhere after one of my many moves.

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Post-Credits Digression

While Marvel Studios didn’t invent the post-credits scene in movies, it certainly embraced it to the point that it’s a signature of its brand now. Whenever I go to see a Marvel movie in theatres, I’m always shocked at the number of people who get up and leave as soon as the end credits begin. When the Marvel brand first started, most people left, with a handful of us remaining for the bonus. Now, I’d say almost half of the audience splits, and given how much fun those post-credits scenes can be and how well known the Marvel brand is for them, I find it incredibly puzzling.

You know what’s even more befuddling? Marvel Entertainment’s new attempt to adopt the post-credit scene in its comics. As of last week, the comics publisher has begun branding a handful of its titles with a “Where is Wolverine?” icon and promising the comic in question has such a bonus scene at the end of the book.

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Bend It Like Bendis

The news broke Tuesday that Brian Michael Bendis, a writer whose name has been synonymous with the Marvel brand for almost two decades, is wrapping up his tenure and creating new work for its Distinguished Competition. It’s a huge development in the American comics industry. I’ve been a big fan of a lot of Bendis’s work at Marvel — mainly the solo titles as opposed to team books — and as a guy who started out reading only DC comics as a kid, I’m excited to see what Bendis will do with some of my cherished childhood icons.

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Marvel’s Digital Downfall

Marvel announced this week, through a spin-heavy puff piece in Forbes, it was altering its value-added digital code program in its printed comics. Instead of receiving a free digital download code for the comic one purchased, Marvel will now include a code that’s good for downloads for two other, previously released and unrelated comics. The shift begins in February.

The Rob Salkowitz-penned Forbes piece is headlined as “Marvel Sweetens Its Retail Value With New Digital Bonuses For Comic Buyers,” and in the article, Marvel reports it’s changing its digital-code program to benefit brick-and-mortar comics retailers, the folks who sell the tangible comic books that it says is the cornerstone of the industry. At best, it’s a naive endeavor. At worst, it’s a lie. A possible motive for the change in approach is to curb the grey-market sale of the digital codes under the original program and to redirect that business to Marvel’s digital-comics sales avenues.

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Don’t Take Me Out to the Ball Game…

The premiere of Season 7 of The Walking Dead TV show on AMC has evoked some extreme reactions, as social media exploded Sunday night and into Monday with people talking about not just what happened, but how vividly and gruesomely it was depicted. I spent a good chunk of the day Monday discussing the episode with some colleagues at work, and I also spent some time actively not discussing it in front of others who hadn’t had a chance to see it. In that spirit, I should note there will be some spoilers in this essay, but they’re all contained after the front-page break. Please consider this fair warning for anyone who hasn’t viewed the episode in question — or even for those who might be way behind on their reading of the original comic-book incarnation of The Walking Dead or viewing of past seasons. Also, there are a couple of images (and some language) found after the break that will definitely prove to be too intense for some…

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Steve Dillon, 1962-2016

Like a lot of North American comics enthusiasts, my introduction to Steve Dillon’s art was in the pages of DC’s Hellblazer in the mid 1990s. I had just finished with my post-secondary education, and I was emerging into full adulthood. Relocation, independence and a burgeoning career. A real paycheque meant my love for comics could be indulged further. I remained (and still do) a fan of super-hero comics, but my eyes had already been opened to more mature fare exploring other genres. I’d discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman during my university years. I think it was in 1994 that someone at the comic shop I was frequenting at the time insisted that I look at Hellblazer. I wasn’t all that familiar with or enthralled by John Constantine, as I hadn’t been a reader of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, which introduced the character.

I don’t specifically recall if it was the first Garth Ennis/Dillon issue I read or not, but the memory that sticks with me to this day was Constantine’s journey through a nightmarish American purgatory, guided by the grotesque, post-assassination form of John F. Kennedy. (A quick web search reveals it was the “Damnation’s Flame” storyline from Hellblazer #s 72-75). Though I’m not an American, I immediately recognized that the use of Kennedy, open head wound and all, as a key figure in the storyline would be practically blasphemous to my neighbors to the south. I was struck by the daring of it, by the sheer gall and bravery of the storytelling choice.

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Versus

I managed to get out and see Captain America: Civil War in its second weekend of release, and as expected, it was quite entertaining. However, my Facebook feed was filled through the previous week with raves from the many comic-book enthusiasts and pros I follow on social media. Along with it was a fair bit of some familiar criticisms (even up to vitriol) — not for Civil War, but for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The new Marvel movie isn’t nearly as polarizing as the DC/Warner Bros. foray into the super-hero genre earlier this year. I don’t understand why so many had such harsh words for the film (especially those who hadn’t seen it), but the comparisons between the DC flick and the Marvel movie were unavoidable.

Allow me to offer mine, sans spoilers (to the best of my ability).

Comparing BvS and Civil War is natural, and not just because of how closely together they clustered in theatres. It’s because there are some clear parallels to be drawn. Both movies are built on the premise of familiar, colorful heroes doing battle (before dealing with the real threat).

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[Insert BvS Clickbait Headline Here]

I didn’t see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice until about six days after its initial release, so I wasn’t planning on writing a review of the flick. And I still don’t (though I fall squarely in the camp of those who loved it). There was a particularly flawed aspect of the movie that kept nagging at me, as it represents a professional itch that just wouldn’t go away. So I’ve decided to scratch it with a little rant.

While I feel BvS succeeds overall as an action movie, a character-driven drama and an effort to build a larger super-hero movie continuity, it fails in lesser aspects. Chief among them, how it handles the practice of journalism. I’m a newspaper reporter, so clunky depictions of my profession always irk me. And boy, did director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio bungle the day-to-day operations of The Daily Planet at just about every opportunity (though there are few of them).

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Suicidal Ideations

We’re in a Golden Age of other-media adaptations of comics properties, with success after success leading movie producers to tap not only the A-list household names in comics fiction, but the B and C-lists as well. I had a great time when I went to Ant-Man this summer, each episode of The Flash is a viewing experience I relish and Jessica Jones has earned what seems like universal kudos. To think there are more live-action options available than animated ones is amazing.

Of all the upcoming TV and movie releases, one that has perhaps piqued my interest the most is director David Ayer’s vision of Suicide Squad. I was a huge fan of the John Ostrander-penned/Luke McDonnell-illustrated comic series of the 1980s (which was the second incarnation of the Suicide Squad, as it started out as a military/adventure property in the Silver Age). I own a couple of pages of McDonnell’s original art from Suicide Squad, and I’ve always checked out subsequent takes on the concept (though none of them boasted the same hook and skilled storytelling as Ostrander’s run).

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The Importance of Jessica Jones

It’s been 14 years since the first issue of Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos was released in comics shops. I was taken with the book immediately, which came as no surprise, as I was hungry for anything Bendis penned at the time (and I continue to follow some of his mainstream Marvel work today). When an adaptation of that series was announced as one of the TV series to be developed by Marvel and Netflix, I was pumped and eager to see what would arise.

Jessica Jones, the said streaming TV show, was released a week ago, and like so many others, comics lovers and non-readers alike, I binge-watched my way through it fairly quickly. What I found was something that, in terms of plot, was quite different from the Bendis/Gaydos source material, but thematically and tonally, it was consistent and just as compelling. The story is different, but the subject matter is the same.

Something else has changed, though, and that’s cultural context in which I experienced this adaptation of Alias.

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Scheduling Conflicts

In recent years, schedules have emerged as vitally important cogs in my everyday life, personal and professional. Routine is key in childrearing, so we have a schedule to which my wife and I adhere pretty closely every day, every week. My boss laments the monthly scheduling of staff in the newsroom, but without that complicated labor, some of the myriad of tasks and assignments that need to be done daily would no doubt slip through the cracks. I have to keep an eye on the schedule to ensure my usual duties haven’t been trumped by a fill-in shift of some kind, covering for one editor or another.

In publishing, keeping to the schedule keeps the business going. Deadlines exist for a reason. There are penalties for missing press times at the printers. If one thing goes amiss, the whole endeavor can fall flat. But when it comes to scheduling, the release of the first volley in DC Comics’ latest rebranding and relaunch demonstrates the publisher has completely missed the point of the benefits of good timing and the pitfalls of bad timing.

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