DC goes Batshit crazy! Batwoman, Harley Quinn & Card.

Oh, if DC could contain its morally bankrupt practices to screwing over its creative heart for every penny they can. But no, DC seems to be run by a cabal of super villains hell bent on self immolation.

Here are just three ways that DC has, in the past few months alone, tried to build their fan base.

  • Hired hate-monger and vicious homophobe Orson Scott Card to pen the greatest superhero every created.
  • Refused to allow Batwoman to marry her lesbian partner.
  • Solicited art for new Harley Quinn artists that must show her attempting to commit suicide, naked.

Beyond horrible creative decision making, these decisions are so myopic it is actually amazing that a company so large could allow them to happen. The optics alone on each of these are horrible. They should have known that people would be outraged that hate monger Orson Scott Card would be penning beloved Superman. And then a few months later to deny a gay marriage seems almost purposefully spiteful.

And if alienating the entire LGBT community and its allies wasn’t enough, the big brains at DC decided to throw a bit of misogyny on top. Who could possibly be so blind as to think it was a good idea to take the beloved super-villainess , Harley Quinn, and base the artist decision on who can have her commit suicide in the most erotic manner possible. As Alyssa summarizes:

As the rules for the contest explain, entrants have to draw Quinn in four situations: trying to be electrocuted by lightening, “sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on,” attempting to be eaten, trying to get a whale to swallow her, and “naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death.”

Because DC does not care about women. It doesn’t care about the sexualization of women and violence. It does not care about diversity. It does not care about inclusion. It does not care about complex storyline. It does not care about creativity. It doesn’t care about retaining great writers. It doesn’t care about artists who don’t want to sexualize female characters.

What DC seems to want is raging homophobes who enjoy viewing female characters through a lens of sexual violence.

One thing is clear. As a reader who wants to see dynamic new stories that explore the great mosaic of humanity, DC doesn’t seem to care about me.

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby?

jack_kirby__spanToday is the birthday of Jack “King” Kirby.

He was born on August 28, 1917, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

And, if you don’t know who Jack Kirby was than you have no business reading comics, going to superhero movies or probably even reading this blog.  In fact, if you DON’T know Kirby, then I don’t want to know you.

Jack Kirby is the reason we have comic books today.  Jack Kirby is the reason we have blockbuster movies like CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, THOR and THE AVENGERS that make corporations millions of dollars every year.  Jack Kirby didn’t just make ‘worlds’… he made UNIVERSES!

And if you think this is going to be yet another post about how badly Kirby has been treated, then you’re right.  Because as much as I’d love to sit here and praise the glory that is Jack Kirby’s work, it is tainted by the exploitation and greed of others.

Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further: I’m a Kirby ‘guy’.  When I was growing up, comic fans were divided into factions much like the street gangs of Kirby’s youth.  There were DC fans and Marvel fans and then there were Kirby fans and Ditko fans and Adams fans but, oddly, not too many Stan Lee fans.  You had your favorites and you wore them proudly.

But, for me, there was simply ‘Kirby’.

Kirby created comics as we know it.  He created the Marvel Universe which we see constantly now in video games, cartoons, movies and everywhere else.  Kirby made Marvel.

Now some may question this and state that Kirby and Stan Lee co-created the Marvel Universe.  Well, I’m not going to rise to that bait because, quite simply, Lee couldn’t have done it without Kirby or Ditko.  Both artists were geniuses of their form and created something amazing from the ground up but, make no mistake, Lee couldn’t have done it himself or with anyone else.

And Marvel crapped all over Kirby.

Not just once but several times.

And they continue to do so.

When you buy a ticket for that latest blockbuster movie based on Marvel’s characters (many of whom Jack created), not a penny goes to his heirs or estate.  When you buy that fancy hardcover reprint of FANTASTIC FOUR, Kirby gets nothing.

It all comes down to legal questions of ownership which have been argued back and forth in courtrooms for years.  I remember the 1980’s when Marvel, despite returning artwork to many other artists, refused to give Kirby back his pages.  The comic community back then stood up and would not allow this outrage to stand so Marvel eventually gave in and returned some of the pages.  Now, while the Kirby estate fights to regain copyrights, fans are strangely silent.  Or, even worse, call Kirby’s heirs ‘greedy’ and side with the corporations.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and if Kirby could have foreseen how profitable his work would become, he’d have fought for better rights.  But part of the reason he didn’t was the very medium itself.  Comics were thought to be worthless, disposable.  In 1963, 50 years ago, who would ever have thought comics would become this vast, money-making environment?

So, today, on Jack Kirby’s birthday, let us thank him for all the wonder and joy which he brought us and let us also remember how horribly he was treated (and continues to be) by an industry that he essentially created.  Let us exalt his work as we point to these executives and corporations and say, “See this?  This is genius.  No matter what you do, no matter what you say, you can never take away from the genius who created this.  You can never extinguish the creative fire that was Jack ‘KING’ Kirby!”

Comic Book Ethics

If, like me, you’re a fan of Golden and Silver Age comics then this is a great time to be alive… maybe.

There are now more reprints available than ever before.  Material has been gathered up from the vaults of comic history, cleaned, brightened up and reprinted on quality glossy paper in beautiful hardcovers and paperbacks.  This, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle.

You see, back when I was a youth (cue harp music and wavy visuals), you couldn’t even find this material.  Most of it you only heard about in hushed whispers from older collectors or written about in the few forbidden tomes that discussed comic book history.  One of the best of these was Jim Steranko’s invaluable The Steranko History of Comics which came in two oversized paperback like books.  I learned a lot about the comics that had been published in the 40s and 50s from those two volumes.  But I couldn’t read those comics!!!  They weren’t reprinted anywhere.  The only way you could read them was if you bought old back issues which, during the early 1970s, were still too expensive for an 8 year old me.  (Not that you had much choice as there were not very many dealers back then and comic conventions were a rare and mysterious breed that never took place anywhere near me.)  I remember gazing lustily through the small catalogs from dealers like Robert Bell and Howard Rogofsky and making up endless lists of comics I wanted to order but had no money to buy.

I knew about EC comics probably a decade before I ever had a chance to actually read one.  I knew who Fawcett’s Captain Marvel was but never read any of his stories until DC started reprinting them in their SHAZAM! 100 PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR issues.  The original stories starring the Justice Society were an impossible dream.  Occasionally, a reprint or two would slip through particularly in an Annual or a Giant-Size comic as filler but there was little else.  If you were lucky, you had copies of BATMAN: FROM THE 30s TO THE 70s or SUPERMAN: FROM THE 30s TO THE 70s which were hardcover collections of stories from every decade.  (If you were REALLY lucky, you had the SHAZAM! FROM THE 30S TO THE 70S which I never saw as a kid or I would’ve begged my parents mercilessly for it.)

What was worse was the tease that those occasional reprints provided.  Because of them, you knew that there were more stories out there, more unseen tales and, even worse, they were keeping them from you!

Well, we have to remember that the comic publishers in those days placed very little stock in their decades long history.  Reprints were just cheap filler that they would throw in occasionally but certainly nothing anyone would every pay good money for. These were just old comics books, after all.  They’d never be worth anything.

We know differently now.

Today, reprints are a large part of the catalog for many comic publishers.  Both DC and Marvel have reprinted vast selections of their old material in shiny, glossy hardcovers (usually at least $50 a pop).  You can now read many issues of ALL-STAR COMICS along with collections of DR. FATE’s adventures or STARMAN’s or SANDMAN’s or many, many more.  Marvel’s reprinted many of their Golden Age material as well along with some of the 1950s ‘superhero revivals’ that gave us a commie-hating Captain America.  For an old Marvel Monster Maniac like myself, they’ve even reprinted a lot of their old horror comics from the 50s with tons of art by Kirby and Ditko.

Even smaller publishers have gotten into the act.  There are numerous reprints of Ditko material from Charlton and, recently, Warren.  EC Comics were reprinted yet again with introductions by many notable horror celebrities.  Even the Heap from Hillman has been reprinted.

It is truly an age of plenty for those of us who so dearly love this artform and have longed, hungered to read these stories.

And yet… and yet…

There is something amiss.  The emperor, it seems, wears no clothes.

I have probably about three bookcases full of books that are either reprints of comics or histories of comics or artists biographies or whatever I can find.  It gave me no small amount of pleasure to look at these bookcases, bulging with greatness, and know that, at any time I please, I could read these stories.

But there’s been a groundswell growing lately and it’s such a one that makes it hard for me to look at those swollen bookcases.  In some cases, I feel shame.

Not because the books are not great (they are!) or that the stories are any less amazing and exciting and delightful.  It’s because they have come to represent, to me, the endless greed of their publishers.

You see, in the vast majority of these reprints, the creators, the very people who crafted these comics, do not receive one thin dime!  Now, I’m not naive.  You can’t read all the books about the history of comics as I have and remain naive.  I know that the comic book industry is built upon the backs of the labor of these creators.  I know that, by and large, this was “work for hire” which translates into meaning that, once purchased by the publisher from the creator, the publisher owns all rights to the work.  They can do whatever they want with it legally.  Why do you think DC squashed any Captain Marvel comics after they crushed Fawcett in their copyright lawsuit?  They owned the ‘big red cheese’ and could do whatever they liked with him and his universe (which was essentially nothing for decades).  So I know that Marvel, in most cases, doesn’t owe anything legally to creators like Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Romita, JIm Starlin, etc or etc.  Just like, legally, DC doesn’t owe Ditko or Kirby (them again?) or many, many others anything when they reprint CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN or CREEPER.  But it still galls me.

Recently, Dark Horse published a new collection of work by Ditko from old Warren mags called CREEPY PRESENTS STEVE DITKO.  This is a collection of Ditko’s work for Warren culled from CREEPY and EERIE.  Now, I’m a big Ditko fan. In fact, after Kirby, Ditko is probably my favorite comic creator.  So naturally I was happy to hear of this book.  But questions were soon raised as to how much, if anything, Ditko himself (who is still alive and creating) would be seeing from this new collection?

The debate raged on Facebook for several days with arguments back and forth as to not only if Ditko was paid but if he should be paid.  To me, it was a non-question.  The man did the artwork for these stories.  His name is a selling point of the collection.  The book would not exist without Ditko.  So pay the man.

Then it was said that “Ditko doesn’t want to be paid” and that others, in the past, have attempted to pay him for reprints and been rebuffed.  This is an argument that is really beside the point.  Ditko should be paid.  Kirby should be paid.  Any creator who has their work reprinted should be paid.  The estate of Archie Goodwin, who wrote all but one of the stories in that CREEPY collection, should be paid.

Then the question of “public domain” comes up.  This is work that, essentially, has fallen out of copyright and can be reprinted by anyone without paying the original creator.  This is a bonanza to many publishers who can just dig up this material, shine it up, package it and sell it without having to pay anything.  It’s still work that someone created.  Legally, nothing is owed but something, out of respect, should be paid.

As Stephen Bissette (a tireless advocate of creators’ rights) has pointed out, everyone else involved gets paid.  The printer gets paid.  The distributor gets paid.  Even the editor and book designer gets paid.  Why shouldn’t the person who actually created the work in the first place get paid?

More recently, some details have come to light.  DC, apparently, pays royalties to the creators based on sales.  This is good but, considering how often I see their Archive editions marked down at stores, I wonder how much that actually translates into at check time?  Marvel, apparently, is a big mess and I guess some people get something sometime and others don’t.  Marvel doesn’t appear to want to talk about their policies very much.  Dark Horse, it seems, tries to send some payments.  (I guess an attempt of some kind was made for Ditko with the aforementioned CREEPY volume but I don’t know if the same happened with Goodwin’s estate.)  But it is very much a publisher by publisher situation.  There is no accepted standard that publishers uphold or are held to.  It is all at their whim.

I am not a professional in the comic book industry.  Nor do I pretend to know the inner workings of comic publishers and who gets paid what, why and when.  I’m just a fan who loves this material but would like to know that the people behind it are getting some of my money too.

In a small way, I have attempted to be a writer in other areas both fiction and non-fiction.  One of the first things I learned as a new writer is what rights I sell when something is published.  Writers can wield an awful lot of power when organized and there are professional groups that protect them like the Screenwriters Guild, the SFWA and others.  These groups help set professional rates for work as well as a fascinating concept called ‘reprints’.  As long as the work is in copyright, the writer is paid whenever it is reprinted.  Why is it that comics has nothing like this?  The pure answer is, because the publishers would never allow it.  Attempts have been made to form unions for comic professionals and they have never worked.  Often, the professionals are their own worst enemy.  This industry is built upon the concept that the publisher owns everything and the creators only get what the publishers deign to give them.

And those who stand up, like Stephen Bissette, and say “this is wrong” are often vilified by other professionals and, worse yet, the very fans who profess such love and devotion to the medium.  Which is why I feel shame when I look at my bookcases full of reprints which, more than likely, benefited only the publisher.

To them I say, act as if Captain America or Superman were the CEO of your company.  And, as Harlan Ellison so eloquently states, “PAY THE WRITER!”

Don’t Get Me Started #3: SDCC

jjjSo another San Diego Comic Con has passed and the tide of FB posts and tweets are ebbing away like the proverbial tide.  And what has been the primary outcome of this massive, nigh-legendary gathering of media, games and comics?? Karen Gillan shaved her head for an upcoming Marvel movie.

I kid you not, true believer.  Not only was that trending on Yahoo searches but it was one of the very few revelations from Comic Con to become a news item in Yahoo’s news-ticker. (You can read it here, if you care.)

So that’s it, kid.  Might as well pack it all up and cart it down to the dump because, if SDCC has proven anything this year, it’s that comics don’t belong here anymore.  Just like when we were kids and the teachers and bullies would rip those brightly colored items of joy out of our hands, the message is clear: “Comics?  What comics?”

SDCC began as a humble convention back in 1970.  Here’s the history as shown on their own website:

Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf — banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started as a one-day “minicon,” called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The purpose of this single-day event—which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees—was to raise funds and generate interest for a larger convention. The success of the minicon led to the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con (called San Diego’s Golden State Comc-Con), held August 1–3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby, and A. E. van Vogt. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more: essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.
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Now THAT’S a show I would have loved to been at!  However, being only 7 years old at the time, I doubt my parents would have allowed me to fly from the East Coast for the event.  Or maybe they would have.  I’d long suspected that they had latent ‘fairy tale parent’ motives when I was in my youth particularly with all the encouragement to seek out the “house made of candy in the woods back of our house”.
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Anyway, what’s the thing that really stands out in that description?  The fact that it was something put on by fans because they really loved comic BOOKS.  There were no comic book movies in 1970.  The BATMAN show had already died out and the Hulk tv show was still years away.  These were people who came together to celebrate an art form that, quite frankly, many others thought was a load of crap.  (Some comic creators didn’t have that high an opinion of comics back then either.)
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Today, it seems that the actual comic books that drive many of these movies and mega-media events are pushed to the side like a  dirty, little secret.  Almost all of the news ‘headlines’ out of SDCC had to do with movies, entertainment stars and reunions. (While I dearly love X-FILES, what did a 20 year reunion panel have to do with comic books?  Was it to hype the new comic series that takes up where the show left off?  If so, did anyone hear that?)
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I hear report after report about how many people jam the convention.  Of movie stars climbing over each other for the opportunity to plug their upcoming whatever-it-is.  In previous years, cable channel G4 has had coverage of SDCC which was pretty much just an endless assembly line of celebrities and directors and producers hawking their product like shameless used-car salesmen.  (And someone PLEASE explain why Chris Hardwick is allowed to speak?  His determination to be the David Letterman of pop culture is migraine inducing.)
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I don’t know if G4 covered this year’s convention.  Frankly, I don’t care because when they did, every hour was the same.  “Look at this great guest we have from a show that you might know or remember and clap fast because we’ve got this other great guest lining up behind them!”
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I just bought a used-car recently and damn if SDCC doesn’t remind me of that experience.
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Does anyone even GO to SDCC just for comics anymore?  And where are the panels talking about OLD comics and comics history?  I don’t see those hyped to the gills… if they even exist anymore.  I don’t CARE about a SUPERMAN/BATMAN movie because it’ll just be another blatant money-grab by Warner Brothers.  I don’t CARE that Bryan Cranston walked the con floor dressed as his character from BREAKING BAD.  In what frigging universe does BREAKING BAD have to do with comic BOOKS????
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The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing.  And that, dear friends, is the point.  SDCC has nothing to do with comics books anymore.  It’s all about selling you something, stoking the fan flames to make you want something which, if you thought about it, you’d probably never have wanted to begin with.
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Back in the 80s, I would have loved to have gone to SDCC.  It was a dream of mine that I never realized and never will because that type of convention has vanished from the earth.  Now, when I think about SDCC, all I can hear is some slick huckster’s greasy voice as they slither, “What do I have to do to get you in this movie/tv show/game today?”
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(Sam Gafford is a 25 billion mile gas nebula currently sweltering from the super nova that is the East Coast and is a comic reader and critic.)

Some things never change…

dsc07684

(Note: This is a sample pic and NOT the comic store I visited.)

I had some extra time the other day so I did something that I rarely do now… I went to a comic book store.

Now, keep in mind that not only was I a part owner of a comic store years ago (circa 1988) but there was a time when I would go to comic stores several times a week.  At one time, roughly around 1993 or so, there were about 12 comic books stores within quick driving distance from me in Rhode Island.  Now, I think there’s about 5 (and two of those are owned by the same person) so the economy hasn’t been the best for comic stores.

Anyway, I bitch and complain a lot (as anyone who has read these blog posts realize) about how there’s not much good worth reading for comics these days.  So, every so often, I make the trip and stop in at my LCS to see if I’m not just being a whiny old comic fart.

Sadly, I wasn’t.

During the 70s and 80s, I read EVERY Marvel and DC that came out… even the bad ones.  Yes, I read all of Marvel’s NEW UNIVERSE titles and even such illustrious DC fare as PREZ and BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK.  I knew all of the characters, all of the history, even all the obscure trivia.  This time, I looked over the selection of Marvel and DC comics and did not see ONE comic that interested me or made me want to pay the expensive price they demanded.

There were a few independent comics that looked interesting but, invariably, the store only had the 2nd or 3rd issue or it was the 14th issue and there was no way I could afford to pick up the 13 previous issues even if the store had them.   Clearly, stores could no longer afford to stock a lot of the independents either as the selection was spotty and a completist’s nightmare. And if stores don’t stock the titles, how will anyone discover them?

As I looked through the stacks, desperate to find SOMETHING to buy, longing for that same connection that had sustained me through my youth, I could hear the conversations taking place around me.  The speakers were young men, probably around early to mid 20’s, and they were standing around the cash register much as I spent time so long ago.  And I heard conversations that brought back memories and, at the same time, disturbed me.  They were discussing who was ‘hotter’: Black Cat or Scarlet Widow.  Some relatively racy dialogue was sprinkled through which I’ll spare you here.  Needless to say, if you’re a guy who grew up reading comic books, you’ve probably had this conversation yourself at one time as I’ve had.

That’s when it hit me: I was out of place.  I didn’t belong there anymore and that shocked me.

You see, comic stores were my domain when I was their age.  Other guys strutted through bars or gyms.  I strutted through comic stores.  That was where I had the most confidence I’d ever had and could talk to others who felt the same.  It was my Cheers, my Arnold’s, my Pop’s Chock-Lit Shoppe.  But somewhere, at some time, that had all changed.

I was the one thing that I thought I would never be in a comic store: the outsider.

I didn’t fit in.  They were discussing the NEW DC or Marvel’s AGE OF ULTRON and I was about as clueless with them as other kids had been around me in grade school.  I’d lost my mojo.  I’d become the “old man comic fan” who I’d seen in my own shop so many years ago.

Quickly, I made my retreat.  As I drove away, I realized that this was the same feeling that had come over me the last few times I’d been to major comic conventions.  I couldn’t relate to the comics or the people.  These were the new fans, the ones that all the comic companies are fighting to attract.  The comics were tailored to what they wanted to see with the mindset and attitudes they admired and emulated.  And they were not mine.

I haven’t been back to a comic store since then.  I probably will at some point but, in a way, I lost a little something that day.  Something that, barring a time machine, I may never feel again.

DC Comics “Villains” Month, or “How much more money can we squeeze out of these people?”

1370241151000-Forever-Evil-1-1306030236_3_4_r537_c0-0-534-712Complaining about DC Comics is close to becoming a full time job.

Seems that just about every week, DC does something else that makes me want to smash my head on my computer desk.  There’s even a web page devoted to alerting you when DC does/says something stupid.  I’m not kidding.  It’s http://hasdcdonesomethingstupidtoday.com/

And it’s really worth checking out because I’m not the only one who thinks that DC comics is run by some very unfunny version of “The Three Stooges”.  (The current howler is how photoshop has been used for some upcoming covers and it’s really quite stupendously stupid when you see them all together.)

Anyway, fresh off the “ex-Catwoman” bonanza, DC has announced that September, 2013, will be “Villains” month.  Every DC comic will be taken over by a villain specific to that title for that month with the oh-so-unique ‘renumbering’ of the comic to tell you that “you’re not just reading a usual issue of this comic, boy-o!”

And, oddly enough, a USA TODAY article on the event gives even more information than the standard press release on DC’s site!  Because, you know, why would you tell your fans more than you tell the average reporter.  You can read the DC press release here and the USA TODAY article here.  If you want to.  I’m surprised that I actually did but I do it to save you the pain, dear reader!

And what is the big surprise that’s got the DC PR people dancing and singing in the streets?  Is it an amazing story-line?  Is it great artwork?  Is it a return to heroic values?  Nope, it’s 3-D covers.

4577_4_05Yep, 3-D covers.  If you’ve lived through comic books in the 80s, you probably hoped you’d seen the last of the gimmick covers.  After all, how can one top DC’s own gimmick of putting a plastic shard of crystal on the cover of every issue of ECLIPSO?  Or Malibu’s own gimmick of a bullet-hole through the entire issue of PROTECTORS #5?

But, when you stop and think about it, isn’t killing characters off just as much a ‘gimmick’ as fancy covers?

Anyway, this ‘Villains Month’ will give rise to a seven issue series called Forever Evil meant, I guess, to showcase the bad guys.  (I assume it’s a monthly because I can’t find anything to state what publishing schedule it’ll follow.) It will be written by Geoff Johns with art by David Finch and that’s about all I can tell you because there’s very little in any of these notices to tell you just what the hell it’s all about, Alfie!  Here’s the quote from USA TODAY:

Forever Evil is a chance for David and I to work on all the greatest villains in comic books. It’s literally everybody. I don’t even know if there’s anybody not in it,” Johns says. “We’re really exploring what darkness means and the different kinds of darkness that are within these villains.”

That’s about as vague as a senator’s testimony before a congressional inquiry.

Then, there will be three new mini-series debuting in October that will each last for 5 issues.  So, if we take a conservative amount of 40 regular titles that will have this tie-in for September, 7 issues for Forever Evil and 15 issues for the three mini-series, that gives us 62 issues for this storyline.

A storyline which, right now, we know nothing about other than “bad guys win”.  Which sounds strangely similar to Marvel’s currently ongoing AGE OF ULTRON.  But, you know, these comics ain’t cheap!  Looks like the September comics will all be $4 each while I’ll be nice and say that the other 12 comics will be $3 apiece.  That’s a conservative estimate of about $200 to follow the storyline.

$200 and I’m being charitable because they may have more issues or tie-ins that I’m not aware of yet.

I could buy four DC ARCHIVE EDITIONS for that or even more when my LCS has a “buy one, get one” free sale.  I leave it for you to guess which one I think is the better value.

BTW, see that graphic at the top of this rant which was released officially by DC as a tie-in to Forever Evil?  See what character is near the front of that line?  Because DC’s just slapping you in the face with the whole “Catwoman Dies” from last week because… well, because they can.

“This is an EX-Catwoman!”

jjjDon’t Get Me Started #2

Well, this wasn’t even what I had planned to rant about this time.

But some things just present themselves and you have to either address them or let your brain explode.

(SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about events that occur in JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 which goes on sale today.  I can’t imagine anyone who will read this blog will actually want to read that comic but, just in case, I’m going to bring up a pretty major plot point.  And, right here, in advance, I want to categorically state that I have not read this comic nor have any intention to do so, hence this rant.)

Ok, you’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t read a lot of new comics anymore and those that I DO read aren’t published by Marvel and DC.  There’s a lot of reasons for this but the subject of this post is a REALLY big one.

I’m sick of all the death.

Listen, this world is rough.  We get that.  We have wars and famine and tornados and nutbags shooting up schools.  But I don’t need to see that in my comic books.  Or, at least, I don’t need to see it done with the kind of school-yard glee that exists in modern comics.  It’s what I call a “culture of mega-violence” and, in terms of comics, I feel it started with the appearance of Wolverine and the Punisher.  These were characters who, a few scant years previously, were considered villains.  Suddenly, the culture changed and these characters were considered “bad-ass” while others like Cyclops and Spider-Man were “lame” because they didn’t want to go out and kill everything that moved.

But it really started to go to hell when DC published the moronic, insipid, insulting and misogynistic IDENTITY CRISIS in which it was revealed that Dr. Light had previously raped Sue Dibny (wife of the Elongated Man) and that Sue was later killed by Jean Loring (ex-wife and erstwhile love interest of the Silver Age Atom).  Things went downhill fast after that like Fat Albert, the Blob and John Candy riding an Olympic bobsled fast.

After that joyful read, we were treated to the murder of Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) by Maxwell Lord in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS which became a slaughterhouse smorgasbord.  This is how that murder looked:

blue_beetle_ted_kord_death

Yeh, because we needed to see that.  Never mind that Ted was a noble hero who struggled to do the right thing.  Let’s just blow his brains out and make way for a new ‘Blue Beetle’.  Yay, DC! That was in 2005.

Now, earlier this year, DC killed off Batman’s son, Damien, who had assumed the role of Robin.  Why?  I have no idea but it was probably to enjoy the little sales bump from all of the newer readers who don’t realize that death in comics is about as permanent as the Rolling Stones’ retirement.

And today, words reaches us that JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 features the death of Catwoman.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Catwoman.  A character that was created in 1940 (most likely by Bill Finger, unappreciated and generally uncredited creator of much of Batman’s mythology) and who has appeared in hundreds of comics and most likely every media version of Batman ever created.  Dead.  Kaput.  She “has joined the choir invisible” as John Cleese might say.  And this is the panel that showed it.

catwoman-dies

Look familiar?

Now, I’m not opposed to death in comics.  Some of the best stories have come from the deaths of certain characters (like Gwen Stacy in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN).  What I am opposed to is gratuitous, sensationalistic and generally unnecessary death.  A death that is really nothing more than some corporate fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy of “let’s kill off Catwoman!  That’ll really shake them up! Think of all the media coverage we’ll get out of this!”  And if you don’t believe they think like that then you really haven’t paid much attention to comic books in the last 15 years.

Comics today are an endless parade of death, rebirth, reboot and then death again.  These are the literal equivalents of when I used to play with my DC Mego Action Figures in the 70s.  “Bang!  Catwoman’s dead!  And here comes Batman!  And he saves her and she’s not dead after all!  Yay!  What’s for dinner, Mom?”

I can’t read DC or Marvel comics anymore and that saddens me.  I can’t read them because there is no joy in these comics.  There is no ‘sense of wonder’.  There is only death and grittiness and darkness.  If I want that, all I have to do is turn on my television and watch the news.

Way to go, DC.

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