There's a funny thing about superhero movies: Structurally speaking, they're fundamentally different from superhero comics, just by the very nature of how they're presented to the public. Or at least, they used to be. Until fairly recently, the appeal of comics had always been in the continuity, the ongoing sagas that built on each other and were designed to run indefinitely as a long-form narrative. The movies -- even when they were designed to kickstart a run of sequels -- were always meant to be self-contained stories.
That's flipped around the other way over the past ten years or so, with comics often looking to provide low-continuity, self-contained stories to readers picking up paperbacks and hardcovers even as the movies build billion-dollar franchises by creating a shared universe that stretches across multiple forms of media. It's no surprise, then, that if you really want to see where that trend got its start, you can trace it back to Batman '89 and the influence that came to the comics when screenwriter Sam Hamm was tapped to craft a story for Detective Comics #600 and provided the blueprint for the modern Batman event in the process.
I love my job. I make Transformers vs. G.I.Joe comics on a monthly basis (with the help of my co-writer John Barber). As part of due diligence, it's my duty to see Transformers: Age of Extinction. My ticket is a business expense. I'm making my comic not just for fans of Transformers and G.I.Joe, but for the rest of planet Earth, too. As a Transformers author I need to know how the larger world percieves Transformers so that I can play up to certain expectations and run counter to preconceived notions. In that capacity, I documented my observations about the film.
I promise I mean this in the best possible way: Writer/artist Skottie Young and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu's Rocket Raccoon #1 reads like a comics version of a LucasArts computer adventure game.
I realize that comparisons like that can be a backhanded insult. Saying that one piece of media is like another is an indirect way of saying it's derivative or wears its influences too clearly on its sleeve. That isn't what I'm trying to say here. What I mean is that Rocket Raccoon has a particularly appealing sense of humor to it, a specific style to its art, and its characters -- even those that appear in the margins -- feel alive.
Each week, ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims and Matt Wilson host the War Rocket Ajax podcast, their online audio venue for interviews with comics creators, reviews of the books of the week, and whatever else they want to talk about. ComicsAlliance is offering clips of the comics-specific segments of the show several days before the full podcast goes up at WarRocketAjax.com on Mondays.
This week, Chris and Matt talk at length about the five concurrent stories in Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke's Justice League #31, using Superman #32, by Johns and John Romita Jr., as a measuring stick for comparison. Once that examination is all over, they pivot to Michel Fiffe's Copra #15.
On the occasion of the film’s 25th anniversary, ComicsAlliance represents our in-depth commentary and review of Tim Burton’s Batman ’89, the father of modern superhero cinema. Originally published in 2011 as part of our exhaustive Cinematic Batmanology series (which also included a massive five-part analysis of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), this piece by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri strips the fan favorite Batman ’89 down to the bone to get at what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s just plain crazy about Burton’s enduringly influential film.
If you missed last year's Dream Thief miniseries by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, you missed a lot of explanation about how the series' lead character, John Lincoln, stole an ancient aboriginal mask that causes him to be possessed by the ghosts of people who have been wronged -- who then use his body as a vessel for revenge.
Luckily, the first issue of Dark Horse's new miniseries, Dream Thief: Escape, does a pretty masterful job of setting up the out-there premise to anyone who missed the original series. With the origin part of the story out of the way, Nitz and Smallwood have a chance to dig into other aspects of the story, and here, they spend a considerable number of pages checking in with one of the mask's previous owners. It's clear the creators want this to be a legacy story -- similar to, but not quite the same, as Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja's Immortal Iron Fist. In just a few short issues, they've made it happen.
Last year, one of the comics I was most excited about picking up from HeroesCon was a "Flashlight Comic" by Andy Hirsch. The untitled story was a creepy little masterpiece of using the form, with black linework printed on clear plastic and superimposed over dark paper, with a flashlight-shaped piece of paper that you could slip between to "illuminate" a small circle of the page, exploring a strange and ruined house along with a stranded motorist. It was fantastic, full of tricks and surprises that made the reader an active participant in the story and conveyed a sense of fear better than almost anything I've ever read, and over the last year, I've wondered how Hirsch was going to top it, or if he was even going to bother.
Turns out that he did, and once again he's using paper comics to do things that you can only do with physical objects. The story he's telling this year is called Station 38, a journey through a deadly space station sold as a cube that you unfold as you read to form the floor plan that you're exploring along with the characters. And it's amazing.
To say that I've been a pretty vocal critic of a lot of the stories that Geoff Johns has written over the past decade is putting it pretty mildly, but I was holding out a lot of hope for what he and John Romita Jr. would do on Superman when they took over the book with this week's issue. I mean, the last time Johns was the writer of a Superman book, it was with a run on Action Comics that had a thrilling cross-time adventure with the Legion of Super-Heroes; one of the best Brainiac stories ever; and a story where Superman briefly got the power of Superman Vision, a red-blue-yellow beam from his eyes that turned whoever it hit into Superman. It was fun, exciting and new in a way that Superman stories are always criticized for never being, and if Johns could return to that kind of storytelling alongside an artist that I love as much as I love Romita, I wanted to be there to read it.
With Superman #32, Johns and Romita have in fact captured a little bit of that magic. This inaugural issue is loud, it's bright, it's honest in the way that Superman needs to be, and it's definitely exciting.
The only real problem is that while it does its level best to be new, a lot of what this first issue does feels like it's going back over ground that we've already been walking on pretty recently.
I was an unabashed fan of the 1989 Batman movie around the time of its release (particularly after it hit VHS), but the years have worn down my appreciation of it, and quite a few aspects of it don't entirely stand up to the scrutiny of a critical lens anymore.
There are a few pieces of media related to the film, however, that I feel just as positively about as I ever have. The Prince soundtrack, for one. And for another, the Sunsoft-developed game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that included a few cutscenes with lines from the movie, and largely ditched its plot otherwise. I took a stroll down memory lane with it, and it still holds up.
In the summer of 1989, primed by "Kiss" and "Alphabet St." and "Sign 'O' the Times" to expect brilliance from the first taste of new Prince music, I raced out to buy "Batdance," the first single to be released from his soundtrack to Tim Burton's Batman. It seemed like a great idea at the time.
I remember my feeling of dazed disappointment the first time I heard "Batdance" lurch to an end. "Batdance" isn't even a song, as such, but a cluster of unrelated chunks of underdone rhythm tracks, ineptly pasted together with chopped-up samples of film dialogue, a couple of lines flown in from other songs, Prince singing the hook from Neal Hefti's '60s Batman theme, and (in its album mix) a very aggressive guitar solo that has almost nothing to do with what's going on around it. Prince and Batman together? How could that not be awesome? What just went wrong here?
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