Seven. Even though this card features Eleven.

I've been typing away on this blog thing 7 years today. Huh. If you've been along for any moment of the ride, I appreciate your time. Updates will continue to chug along in fits and starts, but after all, isn't that how it all started?

I should go and find me some cake and cartoons today. Cake and cartoons are the traditional gift for 7th blogaversaries (and just about everything else), right?

Okay, really, what ABOUT the children? - DC Comics and Young Readers

Lots of talk all over the inter-ma-nets since the New 52 started about the books' appropriateness (or, often, lack thereof) for children, and people have very strong opinions on the issue. The detractors worry that kids may be exposed to content that they're not ready for, and they say that for an initiative aimed at courting "new" comics readers, none of it seems particularly suited for anyone below high school age. Those that are enjoying the new books think that they're fine, and that DC books (and most major publisher comics, in fact) haven't been aimed at kids in 20-30 years, that kids are more interested in TV and video games, that DC already has their Johnny DC line, and they think that when most people say "comics should be more kid-friendly" they really mean that "comics should be like the comics these people read as kids."

I'm oversimplifying this, I know, but stay with me here.

So regardless of your stance on the issue, what do YOU think should be done? How should DC court the younger reader - through the main books, through a separate line - or should they court them at all?

As for myself, I'm torn on the issue. I think there should always be books for the younger readers. Get the books out there and get the kids hooked... not just on DC or even comics in general, but on reading! Anything that gets kids reading is always a good thing, and if it instills an early appreciation for the comics form, all the better. But even though I haven't appreciated the increased sex and violence (and sexual violence) in a lot of DC books over the past decade (that's not what I want from a DC book), I think I'm okay with the "regular" books being written for an older audience. And that's because of the direct market. If comics were sold everywhere like they were when I was a kid, I'd want them to be more All Ages, because there's more chance of younger eyes seeing them. But in a direct market comic shop, well, you don't get a lot of kids in there anymore. Even the really, really good ones don't have more than a small kids' section. If you want comics in a direct market world, you're actively seeking them out, which means you're likely a little older and have $3-4 a pop to drop on books.

So is the answer a separate kids' line? I think so, but I don’t know that Johnny DC is the answer, at least not the way it currently exists. The reality of Johnny DC is that if a book doesn’t have a cartoon supporting it, it doesn’t last. Some really great books that haven’t been tie-ins have been published as part of this line – Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!; Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade; The Family Dynamic – but none of them made it very long. Billy Batson lasted over 2 years, but a lot of that time was due to production delays. Supergirl was a mini-series that has never been followed up on, despite how well it was received. And Family Dynamic was supposed to be a 6 issue series, but got canceled after 3! Meanwhile, Cartoon Network Action Pack, Scooby Doo, and Looney Tunes continue to have great runs since they have the support of TV shows. Teen Titans Go! and Justice League Unlimited had healthy runs, too, but faded soon after their shows did. This is the final season of Batman: the Brave and the Bold, so you have to figure that book’s not long for this world, either. It’s the reality: with Johnny DC, success = TV, and while the books may be good, I fear that it stifles creativity, both in terms of new properties (like Family Dynamic) and newer, younger-skewing takes on existing properties (Supergirl, Billy Batson).

(Yes, I realize Tiny Titans is an exception to this rule, but one book is hardly a proper refutation.)

I think Marvel does it right with their Marvel Adventures line and associated mini-series that aren’t labeled Marvel Adventures and yet we know they count. First and foremost, the books aren’t “kids’ books” by any stretch. Marvel Adventures Spider-Man is a long, long way from the Spidey Super Stories sort of thing that I bet most comics fans think it is. What you get with that book, whether in its original incarnation or its current run, is fairly traditional, straightforward superheroing, only without the on-panel ultra-violence. The current series even has its own established continuity and (brilliant) supporting cast, so it reads like it actually “counts,” for those that like that sort of thing. Spider-Man, the awkwardly named Super Heroes, those mini-series like Spider-Man and the Secret Wars, Dr. Doom and the Masters of Evil, or that more recent Captain America one, they’re all true Marvel Comics in both look and feel. Nothing “kiddie” about them, they’re just truly All Ages.

Another thing Marvel Adventures books have going for them? You can find them EVERYWHERE, and in a variety of formats: traditional comic books for the direct market shops, magazine sizes for places like newsstands and places like Target, paperback digests for the bookstores and, most importantly, school book fairs. Marvel is not only making the content, but they’re actually making it available in places where the intended audience – multiple audiences, in fact – are going to actually see it. Certain Johnny DC titles get traded, sure, but I never see them around much, at comic stores, regular book stores, or anywhere else. And remember, I have a 6 year old at home who likes cartoons and superheroes, so I spend a lot of time looking at and buying kids’ books featuring those characters. I can find a DC Super Friends Young Readers prose book just about anywhere, but finding comics for my son featuring those same characters (or some version thereof) is a whole lot harder.

I think availability is the real key here. Get the books out to where the people are, and you might actually be able to make something like Dean Trippe's proposed Lois Lane, Girl Reporter more than just a dream book for comics bloggers. There’s a young audience out there ready, willing, and able to read about these characters, but it seems like DC has never made more than a token gesture at courting it. The other parts of the Time-Warner media empire have no problem making a Batman available for every conceivable demographic and entertainment format, and yet the comics people seem to fear brand dilution would occur if they tried it. That has never made a lick of sense to me.

Readin' Supplemental: Catwoman #1

Okay, all the talk here and elsewhere led me to actually pick up Catwoman #1 at my LCS today. And actually, I didn't think it was too bad. I don't believe Selina wasn't written terribly "out of character, per se,at least not based on what I've read in the past (admission: I've read very little solo Catwoman), just more like the thrill-seeking sneak thief of older versions than the "Robin Hood with a fantastic bottom" we've had for the past decade or so. She's the bad girl, she's pretty irresponsible, she's not above using anything at her disposal to get what she wants, and you'd do well not to cross her. I can see why this didn't appeal to the people it didn't appeal to, but as for me, I may actually give this a second issue. Emphasis on "may."

That Sex Scene... it was garbage, put in there (and in the way that it was) just for puerile shock value, and if I don't pick up issue two, it's because an otherwise decent story was sidelined in the last few pages by scene that just screams "Shit is EXTREME, yo!!! They shud call thiz LOLCatwoman becuz Batman's all like 'I CAN HAZ FURBURGER?' HA HA HAHAAAAA ROXXXXORRZZZ!!!1!!1 Hey where's my Ed Hardy shirt, bro?"

Yeah, I can see why that pissed so many people off. Doing "sexy" in comics is difficult no matter the genre, and with superhero comics its even tougher still. It works in something like Empowered, where it's done with fun and a surprising amount of heart. Here, though, not only is it really out of place, but at best it's forced, and at worst it's... well, pretty much what we got. Le sigh.

And, also, if I can be all That Guy for a moment, that's pretty flimsy body armor Bruce is wearing if Selina can pull it up his chest like it's a sweatshirt. And his abs have abs! Given that I liked the art in the rest of the issue, I was asking why reality and anatomy suddenly went out the window in the final page. Beside the point with content of the scene and all, I know, but still, it bothered me.


Haven't done one of these in a while. I've been reading comics where and when I can, but with grad school, it's hard to keep up on everything, and most of the rest of the inter-ma-webs have already long since discussed and digested these (particularly the DC New 52 books), so these will mostly be just brief reactions rather than reviews. Maybe a little SPOILERY, too, so you've been warned.

Daredevil #s 2 -4 - Loved the first issue, as I said, and it continues to stay excellent. Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, and Marcos Martin are just killing on this one. The fights with both Captain America and Klaw were both cleverly written and amazingly depicted, and really, they're both the perfect opponents for DD on two different levels, so I'm surprised he hasn't tangled with either of them more often. I also enjoy the new status quo for Matt Murdock's legal career, and I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes. Top of the pile material whenever it comes out, and I never thought I'd say that about a Daredevil book.

Moriarty #s 1-4 - No shortage of Sherlock Holmes-related comics in the past few years, but this is the best of the bunch by a long shot. It's an interesting take on Professor Moriarty - broken and beaten, but determined to get his empire back, even if it takes a little anti-heroing along the way (though only because it serves his purposes). Writer Daniel Corey, like many non-canon Holmes writers, gets out as many of the toys and characters as he can fit into the story, but they're used well and not just there for set dressing. There's a twist at the end of #4 that I kind of expected, but it's delivered in a way that I was not expecting and it floored me as a result. Read this, people. Read the hell out of it.

Action Comics #1 - Better than I was expecting, yes, but still not the sort of thing I feel the need to follow every month. Especially not at $3.99. Superman-as-working class hero does seem interesting, and there are some hints at the new status quo that I'm curious to see unfold, but I can wait for the trade on it.

Animal Man #1 - This I'll be buying regularly. Jeff Lemire's story hit all the right beats for me, blending Buddy Baker's home life, superheroics, and downright creepy creepy creepiness at the end. And the Believer interview that opened the book was a clever exposition trick. Travel Foreman's artwork took a little getting used to at first, but once the creepy creepy creepiness set in, I realized he was the perfect artist for the job.

Demon Knights #1 - Even though I loves me some Paul Cornell comic bookery, I was wary of this because I hate the Demon. But he, as well as the rest of the cast, are used brilliantly, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next issue. I was wrong to doubt Paul Cornell. The Magnificent Seven in a D&D setting featuring characters from the DC Universe? Of course I shouldn't have doubted him!

Batman #1 - Simply put, everything I look for in a Batman book. Some detective work, some creative face kicking, gadgetry, Gordon and Bullock, Batman actually using his Bruce Wayne public mask to do some good... yes, definitely. More, please.

Batman Incorporated #8 - Wow. Not a good note to end the book on, guys. Ugly, confusing, utterly skippable in every way (sort of like that all-text Joker issue of the regular Batman book that Morrison wrote a few years back). Reminded me entirely too much of Batman: Digital Justice, and not in that nostalgic "oh, remember when that looked mind-blowingly ahead of its time?" kind of way, more like how you look back at it now and wince.

DCnU Math: Amanda Waller



Seriously, DC, why'd the hell you do that to Amanda Waller? That's not the Wall. She's barely even a shelf now! And it's not even like she looks like Pam Grier (who played Amanda on Smallville) or Angela Bassett (who showed up as her in Green Lantern). That actually looks more like Aisha Tyler. And while Aisha Tyler is hilarious, a great performer and, by all accounts, a cool person, she's not the Wall.

As usual, DC Women Kicking ass goes into much more detail, and wonderfully at that.

Friday Favorites: The Elongated Man (and Sue, of course)

Ralph Dibny, a.k.a. the Elongated Man, and his wife Sue Dearborn Dibny. Adventurers. Globe trotters. Bon vivants. Detectives. Essentially, The Thin Man's Nick and Nora Charles except one of them is a stretchy superhero and they don't have a dog. And fun as hell.

If you read superhero comics, you know DC spent the last few years being very, very unkind to the Dibnys. Bad, bad things happened to Sue, all in the name of giving other heroes something to react to, and then she died (well, actually, she died first, with the bad, bad things being revealed via after-the-fact retcon, but whatever). Ralph moped around a while, got some measure of justice for her death, then died, too. We got a quick hint of a post-mortem silver lining for them as ghost detectives (or, really, detective ghosts), then nothing. Probably because after all the grimness they had been through, trying to rework them as "The Thin Man by way of Topper" was too much, and too late.

However, as they're quick to remind everyone, DC's running a whole new (or at least really, really revised) ballgame right now. Some of the old continuity remains, a lot of it seemingly doesn't. Seems to me that some of the more unpleasant bits could easily be swept under the rug, don't you think?

Come on, DC, give us back Ralph and Sue. Alive, well, and fun as ever. You're all about diversity of titles, and I think a light-hearted, globehopping superhero detective book is something that has been sorely lacking for a good long time.

Pretty Sketchy: Doctors Who

My Tony Fleecs 1-a-day sketch cards came in! I requested "any two incarnations of Doctor Who you like," so I got this cool diptych of the Matt Smith and Tom Baker Doctors, which is cool because I had yet to get solo sketches of either. What's really cool about this for an over-the-top Whovian like me, though it comes across better in the actual art than in this scan, is that the respective Doctors' TARDISes are differing shades of blue, just as their actual TARDIS props were/are on the show (Baker's being much a much lighter shade than Smith's).

Thanks, Tony! Also appreciated were the Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano card I commissioned for my son, which will be the subject of a future Pretty Sketchy post.

Justice League #1: meet the new boss, who so far is not noticeably different from the old boss.

This will probably sound funny, but it didn't matter to me whether I loved or hated Justice League #1. I just wanted to have a strong reaction one way or the other. As it happens, this first issue was pretty good, which was sort of my problem with it.

This re-boot/launch/start/whatever is kind of a big deal, as major company superhero comic bookery goes, and it should really start off like an explosion, energizing reader minds into thought and action, whether positive or negative. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, however, put out a decent comic book, which I suppose is something of a big deal considering I've never been the biggest fan of either man's work. The story of how this particular version of the band gets together kicks off well-enough, has a few fun character moments, leaves us to ponder a few questions, and starts off the whole storyline with enough happening that you get a good amount of story going on without it feeling like it's just padding for the inevitable collection.

But still, there's not a whole lot of "wow" here, or at least not enough. For a kick off of this alleged magnitude, merely decent isn't really enough.

I'm curious to see where things go from here (though I'll probably wait for the collected volume to hit my local library), and I'm looking forward to some of the remaining 51 first issues we've got headed down the pike to us this month (like Frankenstein, Aquaman, and Mr. Terrific, to name but 3). But even though I liked Justice League #1 alright, the new 52 didn't kick off with a bang, nor even a whimper, more of a "that happened."

(I still hate Superman's battle armor costume, though. God, that's fugly.)