Pipeline: 52 New Titles, Plus Trondheim

Tue, June 14th, 2011 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

DC Comics is giving the world 52 new jumping-on points, at least for those of us who weren't reading any of those titles to begin with. With the full list now available to peruse and "Previews" coming out this week with more information, I started thinking about which comics I might like to sample.

"Justice League" is a no-brainer. New Jim Lee art promised on a monthly schedule is a cause for much celebration. If Geoff Johns can hold up his end of the bargain, it could be very fun. I'm not pre-judging the book based on its character lineup -- this is purely based on the creators. If those two got together to remake "Justice League: Detroit," I'd follow it, too. I'd probably pre-order the Absolute edition, while I was at it. Maybe Lee could save some really high-res scans of his artwork from the project and talk Scott Dunbier into licensing it for an IDW Artist's Edition afterwards.

"Wonder Woman" has Cliff Chiang art, which gives it a flip test, at the very least. I enjoyed his run on the sadly-overlooked "Green Lantern and Black Canary" series a few years ago, and wish I saw more of it today. Sadly, he went to other titles that I had no interest in. Wonder Woman is kind of like The Fantastic Four -- a standard title character that I've never been able to get into. The F4 at least had a couple of good runs I enjoyed (Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo lead the pack). With Wonder Woman, I've read some bits of the book -- a sampling of the George Perez, John Byrne, and Greg Rucka eras -- and have never fallen in love with the character or series. I doubt this will be the book to turn the tide, but I think I might enjoy it, at least.

It dawns on me now that as a child of the Image era, I can't automatically invalidate any title suddenly being written by its artist. Still, "The Flash," "The Fury of Firestorm," "Batman: The Dark Knight" and "Detective Comics" aren't going to do much for me. There's one notable exception:

"Batwoman" is been a title everyone's been looking forward to since it was announced around the time of the original "Crisis." In case you've forgotten, this is the on-again/off-again J.H. Williams-driven series, along with Amy Reeder and Haden Blackman. If nothing else, it'll be pretty.

I am also a bit excited for "Batman," thanks to Greg Capullo. Scott Snyder has proven his chops in recent years and is a rising writing star at DC. Capullo hasn't drawn much outside of "Spawn" since his "X-Force" run in the early 90s. I'm interested in how his Batman looks, and in what Snyder does with the character. He has some positive recent history in the Batman family, so there's hope here.

The whole Batman line stands the best chance for me, because Gail Simone's "Batgirl" series holds promise, even if healing Barbara Gordon seems to be the move most made to poke and prod the DC readership. Yes, it makes no sense that she's still in a chair while others come back from the dead or worse, but is nothing sacred? (Sure -- my copies of the original three or four years of the title are still intact in a longbox in the nearest closet. I'm happy about that.)

Dan Jurgens gets a shot with "Justice League International," depending on the concept for the whole thing. I know they're out there already, but I haven't read any of the "Previews" material just yet.

The Green Lanterns get a bunch of titles, but I don't care. I hope the doom and gloom predictions for the movie's box office this weekend don't come true. If they do, blame marketing and Ryan Reynold's CGI costume.

"Resurrection Man" is the most unexpected return of a title to the DCU. I'd probably pick up the trade paperback collecting the first series' original issues for Butch Guice's artwork. Not sure I care enough to buy the new series, with art by Fernando Dagnino. I just don't know Dagnino's artwork, though I have a sneaking suspicion it'll fit in well with in the DC "house" style.

Marvel and DC both have "house" styles, but neither will ever admit to it, instead pointing to the outliers and the books being done by people who've been in the field for too long to suddenly switch their styles around. It's a neat trick, but if I said "Marvel House Style" or "DC House Style" at a comic book shop, nine out of ten people would understand what I was talking about and probably find a book in their hands that displays it. Ten out of ten professionals would say I'm out of my mind.

"Voodoo" returns from the Wildstorm universe, with writing by Ron Marz. Was I the only person who saw it, jumped to insane conclusions and thought, "So that's why Marvel announced a Mystic relaunch recently?"

Yeah, probably.

I've never gotten into The Legion of Super-Heroes. The closest I ever came was "Legionnaires," when Chris Sprouse drew it for a handful of issues 20 years ago. (I even had a letter printed in that run.) "Legion Lost," though, might work for me. I like both Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods, so it has the creative pedigree. It's set in the current DCU, right? There's a chance I might be able to fall into such a title.

"Hawk and Dove" is an easy sell due to Rob Liefeld's artwork. Period. Sterling Gates is writing it, but he's overshadowed on the marquee out front by the other name, most likely unfairly. Such is comics marketing.

And the Superman titles? The two main ones, "Superman" and "Superman: Man of Tomorrow" are worth checking out, at least. It'll be interesting to see how Jesus Marino's art will be influences by Perez's layouts.

Looking back, it looks like I have about ten titles of interest to me. If too many of them came out in the same week, I could easily chop that list in half. That's more than I expected when I started putting together this list, though.

The brilliant thing from DC's marketing department is that this whole conversation will carry on next month. There are far too many missing titles and creators on the list of those 52 titles (plus "Batman Incorporated," launching in 2012) for this to be the end of DC's new series. Nicola Scott, Jamal Igle and James Robinson's names aren't attached to anything yet. I can't believe DC is so silly as to reshuffle all of their creative teams like this and leave out three of their top creative talents.

But what do I know? If I were relaunching DC Comics, I'd have given Chuck Dixon the entire Batman family of titles and told him to go nuts. At least you'd know the scripts would have been six months ahead of schedule, instantly.

MORE TRONDHEIM!

I've written glowingly in the past of Lewis Trondheim's "Little Nothings" series of autobiographical comics. NBM has done an amazing job with the translations and reprints of those volumes, in nice compact full color editions.

This month, Fantagraphics has taken us back a little further to show off Trondheim's earlier autobiographical musics. "Approximate Continuum Comics" is a black and white collection of stories that feel different, but are still distinctly Trondheim.

Artistically, the work is less polished. It's a little wilder, with freehand drawn buildings crowding into the street like a wide angle lens is distorting the viewer's perspective. Things feel looser in their execution, with characters often in stiffer poses and the lines that compose them seeming less sure. It's not bad art at all. Trondheim still pulls out all the stops to draw an architectural rendering of a small Parisian street, for example, with every window in every window visible under a starry sky. But when you compare it to the watercolor renderings in later works, the difference is jarring. At first. It never distracts, and I got over it really quickly. The fact is, there aren't too many cartoonists who can do this kind of work today, period. And there weren't many who could do it a decade ago, which is how old this material is.

The tone of the book is perhaps a bit harsher. While "Little Nothings" is amusing and Trondheim comes across a bit cynical and world-weary, in this book he's seen actively fighting his darker side, always assuming the worst, and getting into more philosophical issues with his own failings. I guess you could call it "darker," but I'd hate to bring up thoughts of a blood-and-guts fueled superhero comic with that word. I just mean that it's a little more serious than "Little Nothings," which feels even more "slice of life"-ish. There are less grand visions at play there are compared to here.

In this book, Trondheim spends more time creating comics with his friends, lands a big publishing deal in Japan, gets married and relocates and has a child without telling anyone because he's afraid he can't create a funny card to announce it, and throws a disastrous party. Others have a good time; he's the grumpy old man telling the kids to get off his lawn, though not without reason. And that's the thing -- Trondheim isn't grumpy. He's just a neurotic cartoonist. He's not alone. Go to Twitter someday and you'll see a handful of them at any time venting their neuroses. Trondheim takes that material, draws it up, and posts it on his blog. He creates productivity out of it. He's crazy like a fox that way.

At $19 for 144 pages' worth of material, the book is worth the price. As usual, Fantagraphics goes out of its way to design something nice here, including French flaps on the covers and a marble notebook-style front cover design utilizing a number of Trondheim's cartooned self-images.

There's one nice addition to this book that you don't see in the others. In the final pages, the people who act as co-stars and cameos in the book get their say. It's fun to see their responses to becoming animal characters drawn by Trondheim, and often to give their side of the stories depicted in the book. That's the best thing about biographical or autobiographical works from the past: You can update them with some perspective and some humility. Those few pages at the end of this book accomplish that.

MARVEL MARKETING DIDN'T STAND A CHANCE

I almost feel sorry for Marvel right now. There's almost nothing their marketing department can announce right now that will excite the fans by comparison to the DC landslide of the last couple of weeks. ("Yeah, you got Zombie Jack Kirby to draw another issue of "Fantastic Four?" Yawn. I was a new "Fantastic Four" #1 in September.") How do you top rebooting your entire line of titles? Canceling your series with the highest number? They tried that last week, and didn't get much more than a shrug of the shoulders. Yesterday, they tried announcing a new Spider-Man series by Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira. Under better circumstances, the news cycle would have treated the story well. And maybe I'm not taking into account how poorly the comics world reacted to the "Ultimates 3" debacle, but I think the muted reaction to it was because the news simply didn't scale to DC's.

The fact is, DC has upped the game on Marvel and pushed the limits. They've stepped out on dangerous territory here with their day-and-date digital program's expansion, even with all the safeguards -- DRM, high prices -- they've put in place that will render it worthless. Marvel is only countering with another iteration of their old tricks: kill characters, bring them back; cancel series, bring them back; kill characters, polybag the next issue after releasing the news to the local New York City newspapers.

It finally got so boring that DC had to go relaunch their entire publishing program. If this works, I'm almost fearful for what Marvel might do to counter it, besides shut down print all together, move directly to digital only, destroy the Direct Market completely and start taking affiliate dollars on iPad sales.

Wait, maybe I shouldn't give them any ideas...

HOW DID THIS NOT GO VIRAL?

I thought for sure "Hollywood Blvd Superheroes at Home" would have been blogged everywhere when I first saw it a couple weeks ago at Petapixel.com. Did I miss it? Did it already go viral years ago and I forgot about it?

What about the photographs of Dulce Pinzon, depicting other superheroes in common situations?

Perhaps you'd prefer superheroes Photoshopped into historic photos?

It always brings us back to "Grandma's Superhero Therapy," though, doesn't it?

CONTACT INFO

I have a photography blog, AugieShoots.com, where I'm currently discussing my outing shooting a Brian Wilson concert. Or, go to VariousandSundry.com to read other oddball thoughts that aren't comics-related.

Twitter @augiedb || E-mail || Pipeline Message Board

TAGS:  pipeline, dc relaunch, lewis trondheim

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