Pipeline: A Justice League Debuts

Tue, September 6th, 2011 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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Has this single issue of an ongoing comic series been over-analyzed enough?

Too bad, because I still want to talk about it.

You know what I liked about it the most? Everything that ticked other people off. I like that the mighty Green Lantern in DC's new vision of its universe is a bit of a jerk. I like that Batman is a smug self-confident bastich, as he should be. I like a younger Superman acting like a kid who wants to have a measuring contest, judging by his two lines of dialogue in the issue.

I like that the bulk of the issue is character interplay between two of DC's most popular and most recognizable characters. Yes, it might be more fitting for a "Brave and the Bold" issue, but I'll take it as an issue of "Justice League." I don't think anyone wanted another issue where a team is hand-picked by some random leader. If this team is going to form more organically, I don't mind the "slower" pace.

I think back to Jeph Loeb's "Batman/Superman" series, for example, and all I remember is the interplay between the two title characters in the way they narrate the story via caption boxes. I don't remember what the plot was anymore, but I remember being entertained by the contrasting styles of the two leads. That may just be the way I read comics these days, but it's for that reason that I'll find this issue of "Justice League" more memorable than many other incarnations with deeper plots or mind-blowing fantastical adventure plots.

Yes, as the lead book of DC's New 52 initiative, it's a bit odd on some levels. It's set in the "past" of the new timeline. It doesn't feature the whole cast. There's not really a solid story done in this one issue, though some things do happen and other things are set-up. That used to be called "Claremontian Writing," now it's "Writing for the Trade." To be fair, though, Chris Claremont's writing erred on the other end of this extreme, often stuffing in too much for a single issue. He'd juggle a dozen plots at any given moment, but you only were aware of two or three at a time.

The biggest problem is that it's so cliché. Two heroes meet for the first time, have a disagreement, fight each other and then team up to fight a bigger threat. Then again, what superhero plot isn't cliché? It's all in how you tell it, the details you add and the characterization you employ. To that end, I enjoyed the issue. I like characters with strong traits, even when they aren't completely heroic or complimentary. We've seen the plots before, so dazzle us with the interplay. To that end, it's direct storytelling that works for what it's meant to be. The last thing "Justice League" needed to be was a comic about breaking sequential storytelling rules or revolutionizing the artform.

Then again, I bet most people are reading this for Jim Lee's artwork. It excels on the superhero pages, with costumes that have detail work that would drive most other artists mad -- and likely will in the months ahead. There's never a flat color in a costume. It's always textured with piping, armor, scales or seams. It's an attempt to make the comic look more "realistic" in form, I get that, but there's also a part of me that wonders why we can't all be happy with superhero comics being a fantasy, and not questioning stupid things like, "How can Peter Parker make a Spider-Man costume?"

The biggest revolution that "Justice League" represents is the digital day-and-date release. Given that the first two printings of this issue are already sold out, I'd say that digital sales aren’t hurting anyone right now. If anything, they caused retailers to under-order this book, and so many others. So far, I think we've had a half dozen confirmed sell-outs for the books in the line, most before they even hit the shelves. I guess DC doesn't feel comfortable in sending people to comiXology, because they keep announcing second printings. I guess digital comics aren't the answer to reprintings, but rather the bridge to get to new readers who can't wait those couple of weeks.

I perused the comiXology website the other day to happily find a category of comics that are updated weekly for day-and-date releases. The DC New 52 titles will all fit in that category, and so does Robert Kirkman's output and several Marvel titles. I get excited when I see that, but then I see the full cover price listed as the digital download price, shake my head and go on to something else entirely.

While it's a bit of a shame that the flagship book of this new universe relaunch won't be giving us a lot of the answers to questions we have about the character revamps, it is a spiffy little comic, filled with whiz bang imagery and snappy banter. I ate it up and want more. Lots more. Heck, I want the "Absolute Justice League" doorstopper of a book that's likely to ship, when -- in the first quarter of 2013?

One last little note: The preview pages for "Justice League International" #1 reads a lot like a remixed Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis "JLI" #1. If Max Lord controls a terrorist event at the United Nations by the end of the first issue, I may laugh out loud. (Or, I may mutter something about creative bankruptcy.)

COSTUME CHANGES ARE RARELY POPULAR

Comic fans love complaining about uniform styles, but we're not alone. Turns out, college football fans are easily incensed, too. If you noticed "Under Armour" trending on Twitter this weekend, it's because UA's logo is showing up on the University of Maryland's new football uniforms. The comments about the change are hilariously familiar to comic book fans. Here's a random anonymous sampling, without any editing:

  • I think my little cousin Maya is the designer for Under Armour, she's 2...

  • Under Armour showed today with Maryland Uniforms that their design team needs a long way to go to even pretend to be Nike caliber.

  • Under armour failed MISERABLELY with Marylands uniforms.

  • So evidently only the ceo of under armour and I like maryland's uni's. This is why my wife dresses me.

  • Not understanding why everyone's liking Maryland's jerseys.... They are horrible!! Was Under Armour on crack when they designed these?

  • Under Armour is trending because they designed the Maryland football uniforms everyone thinks are ugly. That's some great marketing

The only thing I haven't been able to find so far in this search is a reference to Hitler. It's inevitable, though. Godwin's Law is foolproof.

GREEN LANTERN TRIES TO BE COPY PROOF

When a new technology debuts, one movie is anointed to be the test case, the proof of concept, the earliest adopter. In Hollywood, there's a new attempt at Digital Rights Management called UltraViolet. Its intent is to provide a single standard across multiple platforms to track where and how you play the content you buy. Basically, it's a digital copy of the movie that can be played anywhere, anytime. Specifically, it can be streamed anywhere, anytime, on a compatible device, and also downloaded once.

It's one of the more open DRM attempts from Hollywood, but it's still an attempt at DRM.

And the first movie to be issued with this new standard on it? "Green Lantern."

There's a joke here somewhere to be made about copy-protecting a movie that most people already indicated they didn't want to see in the first place. I'll leave that to you, dear reader.

Here's the small print from the press release:

The UltraViolet Digital Copy includes a Standard Definition Digital CopyTM of the 2D theatrical version of the film.  Special features are not included.  Consumers must enter redemption code by October 14, 2013 to redeem offer.  Digital Copy now includes streaming and 3 downloads.  If the offer is redeemed prior to the deadline, delivery of streaming and downloads will be available at no additional charge for 3 years from date of redemption.  NOT COMPATIBLE WITH ALL DEVICES.  Compatible devices subject to change.  See packaging for restrictions and details.

So you have two years to use it. I hope the standard is around in two years. Hollywood is littered with the remnants of copy protection schemes that have failed and often taken the files with them.

ONE DIGITAL PEN TO RULE THEM ALL?

All of us who love our Wacom tablets and many who have never used one are likely salivating at the announcement of Wacom's new pen, the Inkling. It works in reverse of a tablet. Rather than the pad reading what the pen is doing, this is the pen reading what the pen is doing and transmitting that info to the computer. In fact, the pen is a real ballpoint pen. You draw on standard paper, and it records your motions and determines what you've done. That image gets transferred to the computer afterwards.

It might feel a lot more natural to people who have the disconnect between watching on the screen what they draw on the tablet. It could likely make creating digital comics much easier for those who felt the tablet was an obstacle.

It'll be available at the end of the month, and I can't wait to read the reviews it gets.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool tablet user. I've used Wacom's products for years and find it a lot easier on my wrists for day-to-day use to go with the tablet. (I'm typing this column right now with a stylus tucked between the fingers of my right hand. Doesn't bother me a bit.) My attempts at drawing on the tablet have been frustrating and incomplete. I give up before making the breakthrough I need to make to draw regularly on the tablet. For the Mac, there's no better app to practice with than the free Sketchbook Express, and that's available in the Mac App Store now. I wonder if a pen like this -- if it works as advertised -- wouldn't eliminate all the last barriers to entry that a tablet system has for a working professional who needs something to digitally capture his/her drawings. This might be a real breakthrough. I think it might even convert some more comic artists into a fully digital work flow.

It'll be $199 for the device.

MUSIC AND COMICS COPYRIGHT

Copyright law has finally gotten to the point where I've thrown up my hands and given up. Like patent law, it seems to be an almost corrupt system that's so far changed from the original intent that it's become a racket. It's completely necessary and a wonderful thing for certain cases, but it seems to have been extended for the wrong reasons and become a new club for lawyers to beat people up with.

If you thought the fights in the comics industry were brutal, take a look at what's happening in the music industry today:

As it turns out, when copyright law was revised in the mid-Seventies, artists were granted "termination rights," which would give them the right to take back control of their works after 35 years as long as they applied for it two years in advance. 

Albums and singles released in 1978 will be the first wave of recordings subject to this rule. Several artists, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Loretta Lynn, Tom Waits and Bryan Adams, have already filed to reclaim qualifying works, according to records at the United States Copyright Office.

As the article goes on to explain, record companies rely on these evergreen albums to provide consistent sales for no investment, 35 years or more later. Losing the back catalog could be catastrophic for the industry. Arguments about "work for hire" and technicalities of the law are being used by the music industry to fight this.

Sound familiar, at all, comics fans? The difference here is, while the music industry has big pockets and fancy lawyers, the people who will be suing them have big pockets and fancy lawyers, too.

This could be fun.

AND IN CONCLUSION

The award for Best Use of Buttons on a Costume to Simulate Female Anatomy goes to "Kato" #12. Hands down. Joel Schumacher couldn't direct it any better.

I have a photography blog, AugieShoots.com, where I'm posting pictures from recent concerts I've shot, plus shots from last week's visit to Sesame Place. VariousandSundry.com hasn't been updated in a little while, but that's where I go to vent on all the other topics in my life.

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TAGS:  pipeline, dc comics, justice league, new 52, green lantern

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