Archives for category: Batman

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April marks the 75th anniversary of Batman #1, the first appearance of the Joker. To commemorate this, DC Comics will be releasing variant covers featuring the Clown Prince of Crime for nearly all of their titles this June. The one title that will not feature a Joker variant has generated a bit of controversy. Raphael Albuquerque produced a cover for Batgirl that pays homage to Batgirl and the Joker’s most iconic confrontation- the Joker’s amusement park opera of sadism and avant garde photography, The Killing Joke. The brutality of the source material and consequently the nature of the cover didn’t jive too well with fans who see the recently rebooted Batgirl as a safe haven among more explicit titles on the rack. DC Comics and Albuquerque responded to the criticisms swiftly and decided not to release the variant. This move demonstrated a sensitivity to these fans and that sensitivity then drew criticism from other fans who saw the move as“irrational censorship.” Personally, I like the cover.

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I also admire Raphael Albuquerque’s response to fans who found the image offensive. His public messages have demonstrated a genuine concern for readers, reflecting the good character of an outstanding artist. Of the new Batgirl creative team, I can’t say Cameron Stewart looks good at the end of this though. He’s come off as pretty self-righteous, unsupportive of his fellow artist, and generally self-important. He writes as if the cover presented by Albuquerque featured Nazi boobies or something else so ridiculous it would never appear in a comic.

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Variant covers celebrate the desires of a democracy- you can choose among many covers. If you want to see stupid looking Scribblenauts, buy a Scribblenauts cover. If you like a comedic cover on a book that deals with serious issues, buy a MAD or Robot Chicken cover. If you’re so addicted to steampunk that you require steampunk elements in all of your reading materials, you can buy steampunk variations. Do 3-D lentical covers give you seizures? Read a 2-D cover. Can’t decide? Wait until the trade publication and hopefully there’ll be a gallery in the back pages. Batgirl readers would miss no story elements by purchasing the standard issue. Like the Spider-woman controversy, I have trouble understanding the great threat posed by a variant cover as it exists on the margins and can be ignored without sacrificing from the desired experience of readers who don’t like the cover. The Teen Titans cover that I discussed in the same article at the Spider-Woman article was the official title, so for that reason, its protest made more sense to me. However I felt the criticism lobbied at the Teen Titans cover were somewhat arbitrary- the cover wasn’t a particularly good example of the elements of comic book art to which Janelle Asselin wanted to draw attention. Asselin’s criticisms made more sense for addressing comic book culture at large and probably would’ve benefited from waiting for more suitable cover.

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While highlighting the on-going rift between what Dan DiDio calls “the tumblr crowd” and the inspirations for Comic Book Guy, I worry the commotion made over this Joker cover has only made matters worse. The decision to pull cover triggered a paranoia in many fans that a new Comics Code is coming. Considering the minimally offensive nature of the cover, their fears might not be misplaced. Certainly other artists will make future decisions about their art under the influence of what has occurred and we may miss out on some visionary art. Albuquerque created the cover with the best of intentions to no reward (maybe you’ll go pick up the back trades of American Vampire after seeing his awesome Batgirl cover- I recommend it. Scott Snyder’s writing is top notch) and other artists who see that may hesitate especially considering the vagueness of the cover’s crime. Is the damsel-in-distress such an offensive trope that women will become invincible? Will artists be afraid to show female characters being vulnerable? Such scenarios are absurd extensions of very real actions taken by the readers, creative team, and publishers of Batgirl. Alternately, instilling a greater sensitivity in artists could have phenomenal results that allow comic books to achieve their true potential as the greatest story-telling medium.

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One day our consciousnesses or rather those of our descendants will be able to perceive the multi-verse, defy space and time, and engage in a logic beyond the childish way you and I have been thinking. As our cells ready the coming mutations and our technologies reflect our peculiar ambitions, we grasp for examples that can anchor us in the blurred existential hurricane that is surely multi-versal living. One Virgil to our Dante in this exciting stage of development is the Batman. We are living in an age where people are living in multiple Batman universes. A noticeable portion of the world population coexists with multiple Batmans. While Batman is not unique in this and certainly not among other comic heroes, Batman is special. His multiple universes are more fully developed than any other superhero.

Look at some of the universes that continue to expand:

New 52 Batman (This universe is the same (sort of) as the Justice League War animated movie universe, but not necessarily the Son of Batman animated movie universe. Batman of the New 52 is complicated because he and Green Lantern have a lot more history than Superman and other heroes, making this particular universe great exercise for our evolving brains. All of which has been twisted even more strangely with the all whole Zero Year timing and whatever Jonah Hex and Dr. Arkham get into in the past. Of all the characters in the New 52, Batman holds the distinction of appearing in the most titles with no serious competition for the honor. At any given time, well over 10 creators at DC Comics are working on Batman stories.)

New 52 Batman Earth-2 (where he is notably the father of Huntress/Robin)

Lil Gotham (Here we find familiar characters celebrating familiar holidays)

Batman ’66 (A reflection of the old Batman TV Show universe, itself a reflection of the Silver Age Batman universe and the Warholian utopia/dystopia of the Swinging Sixties- it’s not inception, it’s not an Alanis Morrissette song, it’s more like Medeski Martin & Wood playing their own arrangement of an American jazz song about French people impersonating Chinese porcelain work)

Batman Earth One (Remember this gem from a few years ago? Will there be a Volume 2?)

Injustice (The storyline constitutes multiple universes itself and features multiple Batmans)

Batman Arkham (This universe has its fair share of continuity problems, especially when it dabbled in the prequel arts with Arkham Origins)

Zack Snyder Universe (where the Dark Knight is portrayed by the kid on Voyage of the Mimi)

LEGO Batman (and arguably LEGO Movie Batman is a separate universe; the missus and I recently assembled a LEGO batmobile tumbler, the ride from the Nolanverse, which would be a separate universe from the LEGO Batman universe as it exists in most of the sets, the video games, and the LEGO Batman movie (and, again, the LEGO Movie))

The upcoming Gotham TV series (This universe, much like other universes, rearranges chronology without causing major rifts to meaning. This phenomenon is one of the more popular Elseworlds literary devices- it relies on the familiar to give its new universe strength and recognizes time as a variable, not a constant.)

DCU Online/Infinite Crisis (The online playable universes of the DC multi-verse are (or have the potential to be) some of the highest functioning universes outside of the metanarrative (and what, dear readers, is the Batman metanarrative?))

JL8 (Yale Stewart’s charming running comic of Justice League members as kids is one of many amazing fan-created universes out there. Don’t we all have our own Batman universes that we’ve created? When kids play with Batman toys, they create narratives and become architects of our practice multiverse. Also there’s a bit of perverted Bat-fiction, even pornographic productions of the highest quality. I think Lexi Belle makes a more convincing batgirl than Sunny Lane, but it’s amazing that the modern Batman reader even has a choice in selecting their adult film Barbara Gordon.)

Meanwhile, many Batman universes that we accept as being closed continue to remain alive in our consciousnesses:

The Nolanverse (A self-contained universe spanning three films, the Dark Knight trilogy has solidified itself as my generation’s  onscreen Batman, forcing me to face all the issues surrounding my own mortality as a new Batman, Batfleck, appears in the near future. A glitch in this universe transforms Batman’s love interest into a more talented actress between films.)

Batman: The Animated Series (Hardly the only time the Dark Knight has been animated, but one that resonates so strongly and featured the work of true legends like Marv Wolfman and Denny O’Neil. The show also introduced Harley Quinn who quickly transuniversed across the multiverse into established Batman universes.)

The Dark Knight Returns universe (Frank Miller’s classic Elseworlds story had new life breathed into it with last year’s animated film. This story, closely tied to the zeitgeist (equal parts apathy and fascism) of the 1980s, continues to help readers, and now viewers, transport to a time when Batman was disappointed in both the hippies and the conservatives.)

Jeph Loeb has provided two separate Batman universes. With Tim Sale, he created the Long Halloween universe, which is not much of a departure from Frank Miller’s Year One universe. Later Loeb launches the Superman/Batman series, which brings Supergirl back to the DC universe in a form I believe far superior to the Supergirl that died back in Crisis on Infinite Earths- itself being a primer on balancing an overwhelming multi-verse with an accessible story (with varying degrees of success)

Year 100, DC One Million (Paul Pope and Grant Morrisson probably walk with each foot in a different universe at all times.)

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (This very short yet poignant set of mixed up eulogies for the Dark Knight delivered by his closest friends and enemies provides multiple alternate histories for the Dark Knight. One of the very few Batman stories that Neil Gaiman has written.)

This list could really go on and on as Batman has been featured in an overwhelming amount of material and a good chunk of that remains relevant to the modern Batman reader. When humanity is confronted with what will surely be the greatest existential crisis we will face collectively up to that point, I believe the modern Batman readers will have contributed to the evolutionary process that will enable our collective consciousness to navigate an open multiverse. Also net neutrality will prove to be even more important than even Tim Wu currently anticipates, but he deserves some credit too- not as much as Batman, but some.

 

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This morning I finished reading Grant Morrison’s Action Comics (New 52) run.  Before reading Action Comics Vol. 3, I re-read the first two volumes and it wasn’t many weeks ago that I finished reading Grant Morrison’s allegedly final Batwords in Batman, Inc. Reading a ton of his work in a fury helps you take a bit of the absurdity with a greater suspension of disbelief. I know he’s a bit of a divider among comic book readers and from what I can tell, I’m in the minority because I particularly like his weird stuff. When I finished reading Action Comics, I wanted to re-read The Filth, one of Morrison’s weirder pieces, but I remembered I had lent it to a friend a while back and he had not returned it. Before you judge my friend too harshly, I don’t mind that he still has the book and earlier this week, he gave me a book for the holidays- a real book, one with very few pictures and none of them in color. Under the circumstances, this book seemed like a logical next step. It’s by Kay Larson and is called Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. As you can tell from the title, it’s about John Cage, his contemporaries,  and their experiences with and understanding of Zen Buddhism. I see a handful of notable similarities between Grant Morrison and John Cage:

1) They’re both recognized for pushing the boundaries of their fields/mediums. Their boundary pushing is seen and celebrated in both their creative work and personalities.

2) Both have been met by “emperor’s new clothes”-style accusations by critical audiences terribly nervous that a joke might be pulled on them. Similarly their enthusiasts feel compelled to prove how much they “get it.”

3) They helped introduce Eastern ideas to the West in a way the West, in its current state of collective immaturity and general lack of sophistication, could appreciate and create an understanding around. Marco Polo, Herman Hesse, Pearl S. Buck, Allen Ginsberg, Quentin Tarantino, this sort of stuff has been done before. All sorts of technologies are assimilated by way of convenience and necessity when being transported to a different culture.

Both John Cage and Grant Morrison cite experiences with Eastern cultures are having profound influence upon their work. Morrison’s Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero frequently refers to an otherworldly experience that he has during his Eastern travels, which he recreates in 52 among other places. Cage studies Zen Buddhism first at Colombia University and spends the rest of his life pursuing further study. The end product for both of them is risky, but far from unintentional art. Their products are neither copies of the Eastern ideas they attempt to integrate into their own understandings of the world. In their sloppy and unfaithful reproductions of Eastern ideas, they convey an authenticity, a personal experience, something along the lines of art. In time, the Japanese music community has received John Cage quite positively. Listening to the post-rock, electronic, and other avant-garde forms of music that Japan has been exporting since the days of John Cage and Yoko Ono, one can easily recognize a kinship. During my time in China, I never met a local familiar with The Great Ten, but the idea of a Chinese superhero team appealed to the students of my History of Superheroes course. I predict that history will the Chinese approve Morrison’s creation and it will represent something distantly akin to ping pong diplomacy.

The book was a thoughtful gift- I like it when people remember that I’m an experimental music pioneer dodging the spotlight that chases tortured geniuses. The bl-gging stopped for a while when AT&T destroyed my relationship with the internet, but I hope to turn that around and I hope to use this text and other sources in relation to the sequential arts year.

merrychristmasshyguy

As the last moments of 2013 are sucked up into the vortex of history, I thought I could share a few items that I feel really articulate the Christmas Spirit of Wayne Xiaolong, the World’s Second Greatest Detective.

Firstly, craft plays a huge role in what makes this site tick. One of the things that separates Wayne Xiaolong from other comic book sites is the ambition of this site to produce content rather than review or report on the content of others. This holiday season I’ve made a number of crafts and I’d like to share some of them here.

baby-nightsoil-lighters

I made a significant quantity of lighters as holiday gifts this year. I haven’t given them all out, so I’m only posting pictures of ones that have already been claimed. Making these lighters was really simple. If you want to make some yourself, you’ll need a few things: cigarette lighter(s), decoupage, paint brush, and some images. I created my images using Photoshop. I cropped pictures from the internet and pasted a gold frame to keep it classy. You don’t need to print pictures though. You can cut images out of magazines, comics, instruction manuals, etc. I would recommend thinner paper over thicker paper, so no encyclopedias except maybe Wikipedia. Then you paint a little decoupage on the lighter and the back of the picture. Place the picture on the lighter. Paint a little decoupage on the top of the picture and let it dry. Repeat that last step a few times and viola! You have a fun and inexpensive gift. Many of the lighters are made were tailored to the recipient, but the ones in the above photograph were chosen as more generic crowd-pleasers because who doesn’t love Earth Kitt, Li Xiao Long, Linda Carter, and Zhang Man Yu?

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Secondly, Wayne Xiaolong exists in response to the exciting stuff going on in comic books and the Atlanta art world. The work that I do with artists and arts organizations here in Atlanta gives me a very real sense of community while the current generation of comics creators provides me with a different sense of community as I find myself identifying with and finding inspiration from the incredible work being produced right now. WXL proudly wears its branding as an outpost for the eccentricities of the Green Lantern narrative. The last decade of Green Lantern work opened my eyes to the renaissance taking place in comics while the new crop of talent working on the title have been very supportive of this site. Now is a great time to be a Green Lantern fan and I encourage all of you to check out the independent titles that helped Vendetti, Soule, Jordan, and Jensen catch the attention of DC Comics. Anyway, last night I received a gift from Van Jensen, a GL writer who has made Atlanta his home, that I wanted to share with you. It’s a magnet featuring two classic GLs from the Silver Age, Tomar-Re and B’dg.

tomarrebdgmagnet

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Thirdly, a desire to bring light into this dark world is fundamental to the philosophy of this site. Some of the most frequent visitors to this site come in search of ESL crossword puzzle and clozes related to superheroes. Having taught a university course on the history of superheroes to Chinese (i.e. ESL) students in Dalian, I have the unique experience and expertise in using superheroes as tools for teaching English language and Western culture to people from the East. For the past year, I’ve been creating these crosswords for the family from Myanmar that I tutor. They’re a really fantastic family from the Chin state of Myanmar- mom, dad, and two lovely little boys. The two boys often greet me with one of three battle cries: “Superhero!” “Batman!” and “Go Go Power Rangers!” They’re pretty young (2 & 4) and English is their 2nd (maybe 3rd/4th) language, but my goal is get at least the older boy to be able to recite the full GL oath (In brightest day, in blackest night; no evil shall escape my sight; let those who worship evil’s might; beware my power- Green Lantern’s light!) .  Here’s a picture of the two boys as pandas that I created last year. Like most children their age, they’ve been growing at a phenomenal rate.

pandakids

I often bring them sweets and small toys. After Free Comic Book Day, I brought them a big stack of nearly age-appropriate comics. Their joy is some of the most rewarding joy to witness and they provided what I believe will be the highlight of my holiday season. This past Wednesday I brought them their Christmas present.

Christmas gift with candies taped to it

I wrapped the gift and adorned it with candy canes, gingerbread Twix, caramel apple Milky Way bites, and a Godiva truffle. These kids love chocolate and superheroes, so we have a lot in common. When they opened the gift to find the world’s greatest heroes, their excitement could not be contained. Jumping up and down, shaking their fists, shrieking- these kids seemed to be in total awe that the seven major members  of the Justice League were now part of their toy army. In a pleasant coincidence, Young Justice was playing on the TV, which made it very easy to explain to them who Cyborg is.

The Treasure

Finally, the World’s Second Greatest Detective would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season to everyone who reads, supports, and inspires this site. Let’s all pledge to work towards a more cooperative world in 2014, to turn hope into action, and to celebrate the contributions and potential in others and ourselves. I have a feeling we can look forward to some great comics too.

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My wife woke me up this morning to tell me that that the internet was a-buzz with news that Ben Affleck would play Batman in the upcoming Superman-Batman movie. At first, I thought, “This is a weird yet very boring dream.” My second thoughts were more practical. My wife is bilingual and reads both the Chinese internet and the real internet*, so perhaps a new strategy of the Wu Mao party was to troll the shit out of the internet with such ridiculous news in an effort to destabilize U.S. hegemony. It makes sense, right? Americans agree not to intervene with Taiwan’s return and Ben Affleck will not disgrace the cowl- call it bat-boat diplomacy. After brushing my teeth, getting dressed, etc. I went to the internet myself and was overwhelmed by how fast the scheme had taken hold. Further proof of what the Freemasons have always known, inception is possible. Were the Chinese to blame for Damian Wayne’s death as well? Was Grant Morrison’s psychedelic experience in the East nothing more than Manchurian Candidate brain-washing? Why start the Ben Affleck as Batman hoax at the same time as the Bo Xilai trial?

What about Christian Bale? As a child, his portrayal of J.G. Ballard in “Empire of the Sun” was not flattering to the Chinese, praising the bravery of the Japanese as they violently occupied China. Later in life, his support of Chen Guangcheng got him beaten up by the Chinese police  after Bale had worked with Zhang Yimou.  The Chinese release of “The Dark Knight Rises” was delayed. Is it a personal mission against Christian Bale? I doubt it because casting Ben Affleck as the Batman will only make Christian Bale’s portrayal look that much better much like Clooney did for Keaton.

Eventually my suspicions subsided. The Chinese government wouldn’t do such a thing. In Supergods, Grant Morrison alludes a Chinese government program to create a real-life Superman- which I guess is more like a real life Captain America, but then it would have to be Captain China, do you remember Red China Man, enemy of Mr. Freedom? Anyway I digress. I don’t think we can blame China for casting Ben Affleck as Batman as the news appeared first in the U.S…. unless a sleeper cell just woke up.

I also don’t think actors should play more one superhero. If you’re the Human Torch, you shouldn’t be Captain America. If you were Daredevil, you shouldn’t be Batman. If you were Kaiser Soze, you shouldn’t be Lex Luthor. I also think Ben Affleck is too old to play Batman. The potential for another sustainable Batman franchise is weakened by Affleck’s decaying mortal coil.

When Ben Affleck played Superman, it drove it to kill himself, so I don’t understand why he would even want to play Batman.

On the other hand, I would be interested in a Batman story written by Affleck and I could even consider Casey Affleck as a really good Riddler. I’d like Scott Snyder to write a Batman movie and Gail Simone to write a Batgirl movie. I think Tom Tykwer should direct a superhero here- maybe Flash? Animal Man? That would be sweet, right? Tom Tykwer directs Animal Man, Anton Corbijn directs Swamp Thing, Sofia Coppola directs Zatanna, Guy Ritchie directs Constantine and it all culminates in Guilermo del Toro directs Justice League Dark.

From several corners of the internet, disappointment seems to dominate this discussion and I expect the democratic nature of the comic book industry to force Affleck to walk away from the project with his batarangs between legs. Kind of embarrassing, but better to be pushed off the project now than be blamed for ruining DC’s hope to develop a cinematic universe on the scale of Marvel’s.

*the bit about “the Chinese internet and the real internet” is just a joke, so don’t get offended. As we all know, the internet is, in fact, separated on an entirely different system: the zero internet and the one internet. One of them is governed by Jesus and the other is governed by Darth Vader.

Atheist Batman Bauble

In the tradition of my previously posted Superman crossword puzzle for ESL learners, here is a Batman crossword puzzle. Like the Superman puzzle, this puzzle is modified from a puzzle I made for students with low English levels and limited familiarity with the superhero. I modified it for the blog by cutting out parts of the lesson I teach along with it. If you’re a capable educator, you can surely adapt it to your needs, work it into your own lesson or build your own lesson around it. Please feel free to use any of the materials on this site that I’ve created in the classroom. If you have any questions or want advice on using comics in the classroom, feel free to comment below or email waynexiaolong@gmail.com

THE BATMAN

batman crossword

Bruce Wayne comes from a very _____12 across___________ family.

His _______6 across__________ loved him very much.

One day, when Bruce was very young, his parents took him to the ____7 down______.

When they left, a ____20 down______approached them and demanded their money and Bruce’s mother’s ______23 across_______.

The thief had a _________3 down___________ and shot both of Bruce’s parents.

They died and Bruce became an ________15 across__________.

Bruce’s butler______28 across________ became his _______29 across________.

Bruce missed his parents very much and felt ______27 across_______ about the crime in _______25 down_____________.

Bruce decided to use his _____9 across_______ and energy to fight crime as the Batman.

He often uses ________30 across (two words)_________ equipment to catch criminals, but relies mainly on his _______18 across_________, which earned him the honor of “World’s Greatest ___________5 across_______________.”

He is not a member of the_____2 down________, but sometimes he works with them.

 

Because he is rich and _______13 down_________, he attracts many women and has many girlfriends.

However his crime-fighting keeps him from _____16 down  (two words)________.

He has no parents and no wife, but his life is not __________8 across__________.

He has many friends.

When Bruce meets a talented young boy, he will often _______10 across_______ him to live in his ______26 across_______ and train to fight crime alongside Batman as Robin.

 

Batman may have many friends, but he also has many ______19 across__________.

The criminals that Batman encounters are very ________4 down_________.

______1 down (two words)____ is a woman who can _______24 down_______ with plants and flowers.

Her kiss allows her control over men’s minds. They become her ______22 down_______.

Another villain that Batman often faces is Oswald Cobblepot. He earned his __11 down__ because he walks like a _______17 down_______.

Most people use _______21 across_______ to protect them from the rain, but he uses them as weapons!

the real paddington panda

Paddington Panda. The picture in the back of the hot pot was taken by Chinese rock star Jiang Hao of the group Doc Talk Shock. The meal also took place in his apartment in Liaoning province. We brought the hot pot ingredients from Sichuan province. Paddington himself is quite the traveler, hailing from the Chinese province of Peru and frequented the Chinese province of London.

yogipandaandbooboo

Just a couple of pandas, looking for some satisfaction-inducing picnic basket action.

joker panda

A panda chasing cars.

He wouldn’t know what to do with one if he caught it.

He just does things.

The mob has plans. The politboro has plans. Bo Xilai had plans. They’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds.

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This is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52. Please keep in mind that all honors are awarded based on their performances in the first collected volumes of their series. If you want me to weigh in on whether or not I approve of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, which begins in the second volume of Justice League, I’ll tell you that it’s okay with me because I know Superman’s going to find his way back to Lois Lane.  He loved Lana before he loved Lois and that worked out fine. The Kryptonian heart surely contains as many riddles as the human heart. I don’t blame Diana either because Steve Trevor has always seemed to me like what the porn industry calls a suitcase pimp. He’s a stripper’s boyfriend, a leech, an Andy Warhol Factory vampire. I thought the arranged marriage to Aquaman in Flashpoint was an interesting direction for her love life. I think Kara-El would also make an interesting mate for Diana. Before I start auctioning off rental space in Wonder Woman’s uterus, let’s get to the Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 2), which, in accordance with its title, is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52.

Best and Worst of the Superman Family of Titles

Best: Action Comics Sadly, none of the Superman titles approach the quality of stories like All Star Superman, Superman for All Seasons, Red Son, or Birthright. Still each of the titles in the Superman family offered entertaining fair. The new manifestations of some of the classic Superman relationships distinguish the New 52 Superman from his previous incantations. Obviously, there is Clark’s relationship with Lois. She’s very suspicious of him, a suspicion that is long overdue. Lois is a smart woman. Clark Kent is a sketchball with an obvious link to Superman. Finally, we have a Lois who suspects something. In Action Comics, Superman meets some of his classic villains for the ‘first’ time: Lex Luthor, Metallo, Brainiac. He also sees some old friends like Steel and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Grant Morrison seems a little greedy with the Superman mythology, making George Pérez’s complaint that Superman (which takes place 5 years after Action Comics) was difficult to write without the cooperation of Grant Morrison. The book itself is pretty straight comic book story-telling, unlike Morrison’s wilder stuff like The Filth or Flex Mentallo. Another relationship that we see start from the beginning is the relationship between Kal-El and his lovely cousin Kara in Supergirl. Supergirl is one of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed reading about her in the Superman/Batman and Supergirl titles prior to the reboot and I must admit that I prefer her in the skirt as opposed to the Power Girl-esque camel-toe-inducing outfit she has now. Her outfit looks classier in Supergirl than Superboy. She’s a great character. I look forward to seeing more of her in the New 52.

Worst: The premature death of Martha and Jonathan Kent. I don’t know who made the decision to have these two iconic Mary & Josephs die prior to Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, but that was a dumb move.  A lot of Superman’s renewed popularity comes from the success of Smallville, in which Clark’s Earth parents played a significant role. Many Superman fans suffered through Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and only survived because of the contributions of Eddie Jones and K Callan as the Kents.

Best and Worst of the Batman Family of Titles

Best: Batman. I really enjoyed most of the Batman books and the introduction of the Court of Owls as Gotham City’s spooky secret society. The overlap between books was good. I can only imagine the experience of reading Nightwing without knowing that Dick’s a Talon- a great tagline for your on-line dating site: Dick’s A Talon. I like a lot of the new villains introduced in the Batman books, but I like the Owls the best. Greg Capullo’s art is pretty sweet, though the rotating of the actual book is pretty hokey. Still I’m glad they’re experimenting. The most innovative art in the Batman family and possibly the whole New 52 is Batwoman. It’s a pity that J.H. Williams III didn’t continue to do the art after the first volume- no offense to the talented artists currently working on Batwoman, of course.

Worst: Catwoman. Catwoman was an okay book, but the others are much better. On a note unrelated to this honor, Catwoman and Batwoman are always dressing/undressing.

Best and Worst of the Green Lantern Family of Titles

Best: The origin stories of the Red Lanterns’ rages in Red Lanterns

Worst: The cheesy story at the end of Green Lantern Corps where John Stewart returns the GL he silenced with death to the GL’s family, only to have a few heart-warming moments with the GL’s mentally challenged younger brother. The depiction of the mentally challenged brother is insultingly cliché and surely offensive to mentally challenged Green Lantern readers everywhere. Sometimes Green Lantern stories amaze you with their social and political relevance and sometimes they seethe cheese like your grandmother’s knees.

Best and Worst of the Edge Family of Titles

Best: All Star Western. Telling the story of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in nineteenth century Gotham, All Star Western is a good mystery story. The art’s good, especially the covers. I wish DC had more titles that took place in the past. I’d really like to see some Elseworlds stories in the New 52. As a comic book historian, I like a little history in comics. It’s like wearing another gender’s corset.

Worst: Stormwatch I’m excited to see what Peter Milligan does with it. I really enjoyed his work on Red Lanterns and Justice League Dark

Best and Worst of the Dark Family of Titles

Best: I really, really, really like the three cancelled series from The Dark family of titles: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Resurrection Man, and I, Vampire. I feel certain that Resurrection Man, Frankenstein, and the other members of S.H.A.D.E. can survive without their own monthly title, but I was really looking forward to the development of the I, Vampire  plot. It’s cancellation is a bummer.

Worst: I haven’t read Demon Knights, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Jason Blood/Etrigan. It’s unfair to assign Demon Knights as the worst, but the other Dark titles are all so solid that I can’t bear to call them the worst.

best&worst

One of the reasons I took the internet and started this site is my hypothesis that superhero comic books are a uniquely democratic art form that has become increasingly democratic with the rise of internet communication. Superhero comic books have traditionally solicited the opinion of their readers. The industry has engaged in all sorts of gimmicks to find out what their audience likes and dislikes. The internet has allegedly made this process easier for the producer and consumer alike. Comic books are magic capitalism, right?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first round of trades for DC Comics’ New 52. I’ve read nearly all of them and feel confident speaking on those I’ve read. Today I finished Men of War, which will probably be the last of the first round of New 52 trades that I will read. I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the reboot with a list of bests/worsts and Men of War sparked the spark, compelling me to finally publish my list of bests/worst, to proclaim my demands and evaluations as a client, to cast my ballot across multiverses in a vain last minute attempt to influence the big decisions like which book gets cancelled (I’m too late) and which authors and artists should get raises. The truth is that I enjoyed every single one of these trades, so the ‘worst’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously except in the first case (Worst Line of Dialogue). The meaning of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ will surely change from category to category.  Sometimes ‘worst’ means ‘failed to live up to my expectations’ and my expectations are higher for Detective Comics than Hawk and Dove.

Best and Worst Lines of Dialogue

Best Line:  In DC Universe Presents Deadman, Deadman and the Son of Morning are playing twenty questions. I’m fond of one of the Son of Morning’s answers to Deadman’s run-of-the-mill philosophical questions.

“God has earned the right to ignore you.”

Worst Line: In the story “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS” in Men of War, Soldier Ice says to Soldier Tracker:

“I got out of the Peace Corps ‘cuz it made realize if you want to do good, it helps to have an assault rifle.”

Well, Jonathan Vankin, the author of the worst story in Men of War, has some interesting street cred. He’s written a bunch of conspiracy books and  edited Tony Bourdain’s comic. He’s an advocate of underground icon Harvey Pekar and he contributed to a shit ton of Verigo stuff and  participated in Brightest DayIf I see Jonathan Vankin’s name on a comic again, I won’t buy it. During my Peace Corps service and most of my life, I’ve found if you want to do good, people will assault rifles are a big fucking inconvenience.

Best and Worst Story Lines from Men of War

Best: “Frankestein and G.I. Robot: Dead Man Flying” by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Tom Derenick

Worst: The aforementioned “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS

Best and Worst Male Title Character

Best: Robin in Batman & Robin. Damian Wayne is one of my favorite characters and my favorite Robin of all time. I’d really love to see DC produce an animated film of Damian’s arrival into Bruce’s life. Peter J. Tomasi captures what makes Damian different from the other Robins and there’s a lot of difference between Damian and the previous Boy Wonders. Throughout the first trade, Damian and his tortured genius develop alongside Nobody’s nefarious plot, creating one of the more compelling story arcs of the New 52.

Worst: Green Lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. Kyle Rayner is the worst Green Lantern and by far the worst lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. The book could’ve been called Orange Lantern: New Guardians and avoided the dubious honor of Worst Male Title Character. I don’t mind hating Kyle Rayner too much, so if I was to issue one complaint about the book, I would request more attention be paid to Bleez. She’s a great character, really tears it up in Red Lanterns.

Best and Worst Female Title Character

Best: Batgirl in Batgirl. This is one of the hardest to choose because so many of the best titles in the New 52 are titles featuring female characters. Sorry, Wonder Woman. Sorry, Batwoman. Sorry, Voodoo. The return of Barbara Gordon to the identity of Batgirl brought me much joy. Gail Simone really used the landscape of Gotham, Barbara’s relationships with classic characters, and superb villainous foils to make the narrative of Barbara’s return to Batgirl meaningful.

Worst: Catwoman in Catwoman.

Best and Worst Team Title:

Best: Justice League. Yeah, everybody knows why Justice League is great. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are geniuses. It’s the cornerstone of the New 52, so let me talk about how great Red Lanterns is. In Red Lanterns, Peter Milligan tells the story of a corps in crisis and through that story, he visits the origin stories of many of the Red Lanterns. The artwork is explosive, especially if you like red. As I mentioned before, Bleez is incredible in this book. Her rage and the rage of the other Red Lanterns distinguish this corps from the others and prove why the Red Lanterns, more than any other corps besides the Greens, deserve their own title.

Worst: Stormwatch While I found Stormwatch engrossing and found several of the characters appealing, it lacks the magic that the other team titles possess. Martian Manhunter has traditionally been one of my favorite characters, but his direction in the New 52 leaves me wanting. Where is his personality? Does he just hate everybody now? He was an environmentalist in Brightest Day, Clark’s sort of 2nd round godfather on Smallville, down with M’Gann J’onnz despite their different colors, and a green Harlem Globetrotter for much of his career- you know, he was likeable. I like my Martian Manhunter with a little naivete, a little child-like wonder. Now he’s a super-cop, which is contemporary comics go-to archetype.

Best and Worst Legion of Super-Heroes Title

Best: Legion Secret Origin. I entered the New 52 with only a scant knowledge of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I knew they were from the future and hung out with Superman and Brainiac. I had also read a handful of articles about how the title tried with varying success to deal with race issues. Honestly, I’m pretty ignorant about these characters and feel them to be less important and less interesting than other characters in the DC universe. Because the stated goal of the New 52 is to help introduce new readers to these characters, I hoped this reboot would help me make sense of the scores of characters involved in the Legion. The mini-series Legion Secret Origin does a good of that. It gives these iconic characters as sense of youth, a sense of adventure that may have dwindled under the bureaucracy of the Legion.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. As someone who is not a Legion of Super-Heroes expert, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters I was introduced to. After a few issues, I was able to ascertain which characters figured more prominently in the story and the Legion itself. I like Brainiac-5. I think the story in Legion Lost is more easily understood than Legion of Super-Heroes and deals with time travel more directly.

Best and Worst Member of S.H.A.D.E.

Best: Bride. First of all, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. has been one of the best titles to come out of the New 52 and my heart is broken that it has been cancelled. I really fell in love with Frank and his wife during Flashpoint. The characters in this title are each really special, so choosing one would be hard if Mrs. Frankenstein wasn’t on the team.

Worst: Warren Griffith. He’s a great character, just not as great as the others.

Best and Worst of the Seven Families of Titles (Justice League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Edge, The Dark, Young Justice)

Best: Batman, with The Dark a close second. Because each family of titles has a different numbers of books in it, I’ve imagined an averaged level of quality, rather than which family has the best or largest amount of titles. Batman has a lot of titles and some are more connected than others. The Night of Owls and Batman, Inc. stories kept the family tightly pretty closely together.

Worst: Young Justice. Besides Teen Titans, none of the Young Justice titles really stood out.

Best and Worst of the Justice League

Best: The Flash, with Wonder Woman a close second. By far, The Flash features the funnest art in the New 52. A handful of New 52 titles exhibit particularly innovative art (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, I, Vampire) and the innovations in the visual representation correspond with the essence of the character being depicted; this is no truer than in The Flash, where speed is translated through blurs, fractures, bursts, and shatters.

Worst: Justice League International. This book is pretty offensive. It perpetuates the misconception that Africa is a country- superhero comic books seem to have an especially hard time dealing with this. General August in Irons represents an impossible China where their highest ranking military officials have never eaten a hot dog- seriously? Chinese people eat a variety of sausages, including hot dogs. Rocket Red perpetuates the same Cold War stereotypes he perpetuated before the reboot.

Keep your bat eyes bat-peeled for part 2, same bat-site, same bat-internet.

 

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