It was announced recently, on this very site, that I'll be co-writing, with John Barber, and drawing Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series for IDW. While my car was being inspected, I stopped at a nearby comics shop and bought $70 worth of dollar back issues of Larry Hama's Marvel G.I. Joe comic. It's since become one of my all-time favorite comics. I wish I would've read these sooner, but I'm kind of glad I didn't because now I can enjoy them for the first time.
This week, Marvel posted a few preview pages from its newly "remastered" first issue of Miracleman. Before the images were even officially released Wednesday, fans had gotten a hold of the new images and posted comparisons to the original black-and-white versions from the magazine Warrior, Eclipse Comics' original issues, and recolored versions from the original Eclipse collected edition.
It seems like any time the major publishers issue a high-profile reprint of a comic that's more than 25 years old, they consider it a necessity to recolor them. Maybe it is. Maybe old-fashioned colors are a turn-off to readers who are used to modern techniques. But I do wonder how much changing the colors changes the actual comic.
Q: How do the holiday mythologies compare between Marvel and DC? -- @crcovar
A: How did you know, Crovar?! Another excuse to drop nine thousand words about the underlying differences in the structure of imaginary universes and how they've affected their storytelling over the past seventy years? It's exactly what I wanted for Christmas!
Nah, I'm just kidding. We can probably get through this one in five or six thousand. Seven, tops.
Last week, cartoonist Rachel Dukes posted some eye-opening statistics to her Tumblr about a comic she made about what life as a cat owner is like. She originally published the comic with a copyright notice and a URL to her website. That version of the comic has been seen about 81,600 times.
Another version, from which someone removed the URL and copyright info, has been seen nearly 600,000 times, mostly on Tumblr and Facebook. This problem of lack of credit is one that lots of artists have dealt with and quite a few have talked about over the past several years, but it continues to persist. It makes me wonder if there could be some kind of fix.
Q: What do you think about Harley Quinn? --@Gavin4L
I'll be honest with you, Gavin: Harley Quinn is a tough character to write about. I've been struggling for a long time now trying to figure out how to get started, because there's so much there built around a single character that gets into a lot of tricky, complicated areas, from her almost accidental creation and often mystifying popularity to how much she's changed and been altered in a relatively short period of time, and how you can almost chart the changing aesthetic of the entire company just by looking at a single character. It's a lot to get through, even if you're someone who lived through every bit of it as a fan.
Really, I guess that's as good a starting point as any. What do I think? Well, I like the character a lot, but when you get right down to it, she's one of the most misunderstood and misused characters in all of superhero comics.
Last week's Uncanny Avengers, by Rick Remender and Steve McNiven, killed off a whole bunch of characters. The last issue of Avengers Arena, by Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker, came out the same day with that book's final death tally. It was a good day for funeral directors in the Marvel universe.
The deaths in these two titles ran the gamut from newly minted minor characters seemingly created just so they could die to major Marvel heroes with substantial fanbases and decades of history. Does that distinction matter in a genre that takes such a light view of death?
Spoilers for Uncanny Avengers and Avengers Arena follow.
Last week, I took a hard look at DC's recent Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years hardcover, and to say I found it lacking is putting it mildly. Despite reprinting some very, very good stories, the tone of the collection was overwhelmingly, oppressively grim at best, and felt like the publisher was embarrassed by the very character they were claiming to celebrate at worst. It was more than a little disheartening, because it didn't have to be that way. It's not an accurate look at Superman's past, and really, it's a narrative that you'd have to go out of your way to create.
But let it never be said that I complain about things without offering a viable solution -- even though I do that pretty much all the time. With the same amount of space and the same division of eras in Superman, you can create a sequence of stories with the same resonance and the same level of quality that shows Superman at his best, triumphing over evil and making the world a better place.
Relaunches. They're the worst. A sign of desperation from an industry obsessed with gimmicks and stunts. A transparent attempt to drive up sales with no respect for the audience, no regard for the author, no consideration for the history of the title.
Or, they're the opposite of that. New #1s might actually be the smartest way to tell ongoing stories, and the best way forward for the genre comic industry. More relaunches and more #1s could be exactly what comics needs.
Q: You mentioned "The Problem" in last week's column. So, what is "The Problem?" --@green2814
A: Last week, I dug in a little into the idea that even though they share prominent creators and have influenced each other back and forth over the course of the last 50 years, the DC and Marvel Universes have some fundamental differences in the way they're structured. One of the things I really wanted to get across in that column was that neither one is really fundamentally better than the other, they're just incompatible in a lot of ways, and I touched on how that results in something I call The Problem. Since that's still pretty fresh in everybody's mind, and since you were nice enough to set the ball right on the tee and hand me the bat, I might as well elaborate on that now. It's actually pretty simple.
To put it bluntly, The Problem is that DC wants to be Marvel, and they have for the past 50 years.
Whenever a publisher puts out a "Best Of" collection for a long-running character, it's always really interesting to see what kind of stories make the cut. They make a fascinating look at the character -- not just the past, in the stories being reprinted, but in how revealing they are about the attitudes about those stories when they're all collected. If you go back through books like The Best Batman Stories Ever Told or The Very Best of Spider-Man, they're just as much of a snapshot of how the companies saw those characters when the books came out as they are of the times when those stories were originally printed.
Last week, DC put out an especially interesting highlight reel for their flagship character, Superman: A Celebration of 75 Years, and the stories they lined up as the best Superman has to offer say an awful lot about how DC looks at the Man of Steel. They might call it a "celebration" on the cover, but when you actually go in and read it, it feels more like a funeral dirge.