Pipeline: DC Comics' New 52, "Shinku" and Digital Comics

Tue, July 5th, 2011 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THE TRUE DEFINITION OF DC'S NEW 52

So let me get this straight: "The New 52" will feature new stories set in the past in continuities where some things no longer happened where characters may change "appearance, origin and age," but it's not a reboot. In a reboot, all previous stories are jettisoned, only to be retold again. I'm beginning to think this "relaunch" is more of a reboot than an actual reboot.

Let's look at DC's pitch:

This is a new beginning which builds off the best of the past. For the stories launching as new #1s in September, we have carefully hand-selected the most powerful and pertinent moments in these characters’ lives and stories to remain in the mythology and lore. And then we’ve asked the best creators in the industry to modernize, update and enhance the books with new and exciting tales. The result is that we retained the good stuff and then make it better.

So they're hand-picking which stories "counted" now and then spinning out from there on a character by character basis?

Can we just call this what it really is? The DCU is forking itself.

Look, DC can do what it wants to do and I won't light any fires or march in any parades. It doesn't matter to me. Let them do what they think is best and let them tell the best stories they can. But trying to appease the hardcore fans that they're not trying to appeal to by denying the word "reboot" is disingenuous. By making as convoluted a pitch as this is to help explain it by further obfuscating it just leaves the fans wondering if DC, itself, knows what it's doing.

So, yeah, "reboot" isn't a fair term. I'm sticking with "fork."

LOW COST DIGITAL COMICS

I received a friendly reminder from our friends at IDW last week about their 99 cent comics. Specifically, their Transformers-themed iPhone app with its 99 cent comics across the board was in the Top 10 chart for both Top Grossing and Top Free apps in its class ("Books"). Marvel is still #1 in the category, but as I write this on Sunday, the day before the sale wraps up, the Transformers app is #11, behind only apps featuring the Bible, Dora the Explorer and Marvel/DC comics. It's outselling the Green Lantern app, which is likely the best comparison, given the movie boost inherent in each app's sales.

Even "Sonic Comics," an app dedicated to "Sonic the Hedgehog," is at the #30 spot, with a leaderboard of in-App purchases dominated by 99 cent titles.

Marvel, the top grossing app in the store, is all $1.99 comics, save one "Ultimate" title at $3.99. The title is truncated on my screen, so I don't know which comic it is, though I assume it's a day-and-date title, the only one listed in a Top Ten dominated by "Civil War" issues and two "Wolverine" comics. And don't tell me that the tried-and-true long term Direct Market comic book readers are the ones buying "Civil War" in droves, digitally. If it was just the first issue, maybe that would make sense. I have to think it's lapsed comic fans who remember reading about the series, saw the sale Marvel was having on it and jumped. Everyone else who's been reading Marvel Comics for the last five years from comics they're purchased at the local brick and mortar shop don't need the digital editions that badly.

DC has a mix of price points in their top in-app purchase list and the truncated title listings make it difficult to analyze. It looks like the big winner for DC is "Batman: Arkham City," the miniseries from Paul Dini set in the video game version of the DCU. It's day-and-date. Combine that immediacy with a format friendlier to the intended target audience (video gamers) and you have a recipe for success. The 99 cent first issue is at #4, while subsequent issues chart at #1 and #10.

Four of the other Top 10 selling comics are "Flashpoint" tie-ins, while "Brightest Day" and "Batman and Robin" each chart an issue. "Green Lantern" rounds things out with a strong third place finish.

So, it looks like even before DC went completely day-and-date digital with its lineup (coming in September), they were leaning towards selling the most recent comics. Their best sellers are much more current than Marvel's, though Marvel's sale on "Civil War" might be skewing the results temporarily. Again, I'd be interested in seeing how DC's "Wonder Woman" 99 cent sale went last weekend. Doesn't look like it pushed anything to the top of the charts. DC's digital readership, I'd guess, would be skewing more towards the Wednesday Crowd than Marvel's. This is just an educated guess, though. There aren't nearly enough numbers to be sure of anything.

But it would certainly show DC along a better path towards a future of parity between digital and print comics, while Marvel is selling mostly out of the virtual back issue bins, with a few notable exceptions. Perhaps DC's move in September will spur Marvel on.

CAR CHASING IN COMICS

There are few cases of car chases working well in comics. Toby Cypress' "Rodd Racer" is a prime example of one that works, though. The centerpiece of this one shot is a nearly twenty page climax of a race scene that will make your knuckles turn white holding the comic. Cypress' art tells the story, looks cool and throws every believable and unbelievable thing into the mix at once. It's a powerhouse turn of comics storytelling this week and one worth reading.

Let's back up a tad. "Rodd Racer" is a squarebound one-off telling the story of a car racer who owes much to the Yakuza and is racing for his life. Even then, it might not be enough. He's got a retro car, a hot mechanic girlfriend and a ghost from his past pushing him on. It's a high concept book to be sure, the kind of thing you'd have expected from AiT/PlanetLar a few years ago. (Cypress did one of those OGNs, already: "Tourist," written by Brian Wood.)

Cypress tells the story in a breezy 80 pages or so, all black and white except for the color chapter breaks that so beautifully set the scenes and add atmosphere. There are parts where an editor might have been useful. A few pages might have been cut for repetition and the chapters are each a random number of pages with almost no reasons. It almost feels like this is a webcomic that stopped and started a few times before getting a book deal to afford to finish itself off. And, to a certain degree, that's not completely untrue. Cypress has been working on this book for years, with a couple of preview chapters having been let loose into the world along the way.

The book isn't going to win any critic's choice awards for subtlety, nuance, or literary drama. It's a simple book that can be quickly and easily summed up. But it looks cool, it's a fun ride straight through and Cypress doesn't try to get cute by throwing in a pointless twist or societal commentary. It's just cool. Live fast, driver faster, die hard. It's clearly the product of a sum of its influences, disparate though they might be, but it's a good one.

And that middle section where the last part of the race is decompressed across twenty pages is a work of art. It has the atmospherics, the drama, the crazy action, the car wrecks, the sex and the flames. I'd give an Eisner to that section if there was a "Best Car Action Sequence" for the 2012 version of the awards. Someone should consider that category just to give this book the award.

The whole kit and kaboodle is yours for just $7.99 this week. It's a nifty book and one that you might enjoy as a good summer read.

SHINKU #2 PREVIEW

Don't have enough to say to make this a full review, but I enjoyed "Shinku" #2, which is also out this week from Image Comics. This is Ron Marz's vampire-meets-samurai story, and it's a keeper. Lee Moder handles the art, Matthew Waite does digital inks that you'd never guess were digital, Michael Atiyeh does colors and Troy Peteri letters the whole thing. It's a great group effort. In a slightly alternate universe, this would have been published by CrossGen. It has that kind of feel to it -- high end production, slick paper, a non-superhero high concept and a strong identity to it.

Moder gets special commendation for telling the story using techniques that make comics unique. Check out the sequence where Shinku is traveling down an elevator shaft. Moder's two tier grid of elongated panels help move the action up to down, even as the page reads left to right. His tight cluster of rectangular panels as Shinku loads up her arrows makes a silent page look interesting and holds your attention. And the final sequence set in the past makes great use of wide panels, like you're reading "Lone Wolf and Cub" or watching a samurai movie.

It's rated "M" for mature for bloody violence, language and nipples, so please read accordingly. But do give it a chance if you see it on store shelves. So far, it's an enjoyable comic and one which I'm looking forward to each month.

IN CONCLUSION...

I have a photography blog, AugieShoots.com, where I'll hopefully be sharing concert pics from a couple of gigs I have lined up this week. Plus, lots of commentary on the industry and the things going on within. Or, go to VariousandSundry.com to read other oddball thoughts that aren't comics-related. This week, Weird Al makes an appearance.

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

TAGS:  pipeline, dc relaunch, dc comics, shinku, rodd racer, image comics

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