Thursday, January 12, 2012

DC's Second Wave

So according to the today's news from DC Comics:

In May of 2012, DC Comics will release a “Second Wave” of titles as part of its historic DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 initiative. Six new, ongoing series will build on the shared universe and bold concepts introduced in September 2011 with the renumbering of DC Comics’ entire line of comic books.

Featuring a variety of different genres and storytelling sensibilities, the titles in the “Second Wave” will be helmed by some of the most legendary writers and artists in the comic book industry, and will also feature the first ongoing comic book series written by acclaimed novelist China Miéville.

“The excitement of the initial launch of DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 was in seeing the re-imagining of these classic characters and concepts,” said Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief. “The ‘Second Wave’ is all about world-building.”

DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 “Second Wave” includes:

  • BATMAN INCORPORATED – Writer: Grant Morrison. Artist: Chris Burnham. The acclaimed ongoing writer of ACTION COMICS, Grant Morrison, presents a fresh take on BATMAN INCORPORATED, in which the Batman brand is franchised globally in preparation for a major international threat.
  • EARTH 2 – Writer: James Robinson. Artist: Nicola Scott. The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.
  • WORLDS’ FINEST – Writer: Paul Levitz. Artists: George Perez and Kevin Maguire. Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2. Perez and Maguire will be the artists on alternating story arcs.
  • DIAL H – Writer: China Miéville. Artist: Mateus Santoluoco. The first ongoing series from acclaimed novelist China Miéville, this is a bold new take on a cult classic concept about the psychological effects on an everyman who accidentally gains powers to become a hero.
  • G.I. COMBAT – Writer: J.T. Krul. Artist: Ariel Olivetti. Featuring the return of a classic DC Comics series, THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT, along with rotating back-up stories and creative teams – including THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, with writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Dan Panosian; and THE HAUNTED TANK, with writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins.
  • THE RAVAGERS – Writer: Howard Mackie. Artist: Ian Churchill. Spinning off from TEEN TITANS and SUPERBOY, this series finds four superpowered teens on the run and fighting against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

The six new series will replace BLACKHAWKS, HAWK AND DOVE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER TERRIFIC, O.M.A.C. and STATIC SHOCK, all of which will conclude with their eighth issues in April.

“Many of the characters from our canceled books will appear in DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 titles, and in some very surprising ways,” said Harras. “We’re developing stories that reach from cultures around the globe to parallel worlds. We’re just getting started.”

Setting the specifics of the changes aside for a moment, I am delighted that, simply put, DC had a PLAN. They didn't simply assume that all the books in the New 52 would do well enough to continue and had books ready to replace them with. Just as with its decision to revamp/reboot all its lines and to go same-day digital, DC is clearly doing more forward-thinking than they used to. I mean, maybe it's possible they are doing this on the fly, but I don't think so; it must take a while to scheme and staff new series, so I assume they must have had all these series saddled in the stable and ready to run. Good thinking, DC! Who said we learned nothing from the DC Implosion?

I haven't been reading BLACKHAWKS, HAWK AND DOVE, MEN OF WAR, MISTER TERRIFIC, O.M.A.C., or STATIC SHOCK, but apparently not many have been. I did give Mister Terrific and Static Shock a try, because I like those characters. But one of my New Year's resolutions was not to continue reading comics that aren't good just because I'm fond of the characters within them; and so, I dropped those titles pretty darned quickly.

It's sad; they are two characters who could definitely "rise up the ranks" (unlike, say, GEO-FORCE). Mister Terrific has a Golden Age legacy and a good modern background in the JSA titles; he's got interesting "powers" and, frankly, looks hot. Static Shock has youth appeal and is essentially the only "electricky" hero in the present-day DCU (at least, assuming that there is no Black Lightning in the new universe). I certainly find them more interesting than 'Cyborg', Marv Wolfman's unimaginative offspring, who's been elevated to take the Martian Manhunter's place as 'the founding member of the JLA whose publishing history doesn't merit his inclusion'.

The failure of their series is sad not only because I like them and because they are good characters with great potential, but because they were two of the pillars of DC's effort for greater ethnic diversity among its more visible heroes. Sure, the characters aren't going away, and may even be repurposed (I wouldn't be surprised to see Mister Terrific move to Earth-2 or Static join the Teen Titans); that's not the issue. But there's no question that, without titles of their own, they will be much less visible. I'd rather see them replace Batman and Guy Gardner in the Justice League International title.

O.M.A.C.? Well, it's crazy and that's not necessary bad; but it's Kirby-crazy, and that's never been a good fit with the DCU, in my opinion. So, OMAC, don't let the Boom Tube hit you on the way out.

As for HAWK AND DOVE, well, I'm not sure it's a concept that has ever worked all that well. They were meant to represent a cogent political and philosophical conflict during the era they were created. Attempts to re-cast them as agents of "chaos and order" or infuse a romantic conflict failed, and as plain old super-heroes, they just don't seem to cut it. Frankly, they seem as though they'd be more comfortable on some other Earth.

I crow on and on about 'liking war comics', but the reality is, I like the IDEA of war comics, I like the existence of war comics. That doesn't mean I gravitate toward reading them, and, in fact, I haven't been reading either Blackhawks or Men of War, so I'd be lying if I said I'd notice their absence. That said, I'm glad DC is following up with G.I.Combat. Sounds like it's going to be mostly "weird war" (which was always DC's strength in war comic), and that's what's most likely to get people like me to read it.

As for the Runaways-er, I mean 'the Ravagers'-- well, a spin-off of the current Teen Titans and Superboy inspires me little. I mean-- aren't you supposed to create spin-offs from things people LIKE....?

Batman Inc, well, that's in the big box o' Morrison, so there's no help for it. If it were going to be fun, using 'Batmen' in other countries to show cultural differences and to tell stories a bit more light-hearted -- or even just different -- than would work well in the current version of Gotham City, that would be great. But it's Morrison, so instead it will be cryptic, elliptic, and apocalyptic; for now, count me out.

Earth-2; now, there's the stuff. That's the other shoe we've all been waiting for. The revitalization of the JSA and their legacy characters was one of the great success stories of the previous age of comics. And now that the JSA no longer needs to fit in around the edges of the JLA, it can, and I'm guessing will, expand to become a JLU style organization for its Earth. I'm hoping it includes VIBE; I'm sure you are, too. That's the kind of wackiness Earth-2 will enable, much like a World's Finest starring Power Girl and Huntress, the 'breakout' characters from Earth-2 who suffered most from the effects of deracination when they became Earth-1-ified.

And speaking of wackiness: DIAL H. Really, it don't get no more wacky than that, and I am definitely on board for an issue or two just see how they play with the concept.

P.S. Read the Ray. I've been waiting years for a comic book about a permanently naked, hot Asian lifeguard and I don't want to see it cancelled. Besides: giant flying mutant jellyfish and the attack of "the Purple Rose of Cairo"? We need more of that sort of thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GIANT PENNY WEEK, epilog: The Batcave map!

Our epilog to Giant Penny Week is a Heroclix map of the Giant Penny's home: THE BATCAVE!

Bruce's study has three points of access to the Batcave:
  1. the service elevator behind one of the bookcases (which originated in the Silver Age);
  2. the bat-poles (!!!) behind another bookcase (from the TV show, natch); and
  3. the long winding stone staircase behind the grandfather clock (the usual means of descent during the Golden Age and early to mid Silver Age)

Rather than separate "rooms", the Batcave's areas are distinguished by levels (marked with numbers) as the cave floor terraces down to the waterline at Elevation 1. Batman's central 'work area' with the Batcomputer flows directly into the Batmobile's turntable area and the causeway out of the Batcave. Note the stone stairs go over the causeway and open up there to form a balcony looking out on the Batcave. As for how the Batplane gets out of the cave, um.... I dunno. A tunnel. Or a winch. Yes, it's usually a winch of some kind.

Most of the areas of the Batcave are pretty sparse, with just enough "stuff" to make each area unique. The exception, of course, is the hoarder's paradise, the "Hall of Trophies", home of the Giant Penny. I tried to use only trophies that I've seen appear there (or can reasonable infer). See if you can spot:

  • Diver Jones's tiger-headed diving suit
  • the giant eight ball (from a Two-Face story, as we've discussed)
  • Thomas Wayne's bat-man costume
  • a statute of the original Robin
  • a statute of Ace the Bat-hound
  • the Penguin's machine gun umbrella
  • the Joker-in-the-Box from "The 1,000 Secrets of the Batcave"
  • Mr Freeze's freeze-gun
  • The Red Hood's helmet and cape
  • the Tinytown house that saved Batman's life when he battled Dr. Doom, and the sarcophagus Doom died in
  • the harpoon cannon, giant die, and giant chess rook from that same story
  • trophies from the Killer Moth, Mad Hatter, and the Riddler.

Special thanks to Michael Bielaski for the robot dinosaur pic!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GIANT PENNY WEEK, #8: Haikuesday with the Giant Penny

We have already noted two comic book haikus in the Giant Penny's original story, "The Penny Plunderers":

I call this one "Skinny's Epitaph":

Tough! But that's always
the risk a fellow takes when
he turns criminal.

I call this one "Joe's Two Cents" (a.k.a., "If Joe Coyne weren't a Sarcastic Wise-Ass, He'd be Alive and Batman & Robin would be Dead"):

So long! Here's two cents--
that's all your lives will be worth
in a little while.

But today we round out Giant Penny Week with ONE MORE. It's in Joe's famous meltdown scene, and I call it


It's a pay phone ! I
need a single nickel to
be able to dial!

And that's the end of GIANT PENNY WEEK! Except for tomorrow's epilog, which is about the Giant Penny's home: the Batcave!

Monday, January 09, 2012

GIANT PENNY WEEK, #7: Adventures of the Giant Penny!

As seen at "Comics Make No Sense", there's actual more than one giant penny rolling around Gotham:
"Gosh, Batman; the nobility of the almost-human giant penny!"

As pointed out yesterday, the Giant Penny weighs in the neighborhood of 49,000 pounds, which should mean that every one of the Penny Plunderers in this panel are DEAD (and that Batman is hella strong): And then there was the time that Bruce and Dick moved the 49,000 lb Giant Penny... BY HAND.
Gene Colan was a great guy; but getting the year on the Giant Penny wrong?
ONLY a Marvel person would make that mistake.
Speaking of the Marvel universe, apparently it's where the Giant Penny vacations:
The Giant Penny likes to lord it over pointless Kirbyesque whatnots: "So, what exactly are YOU supposed to be?"
Then (as previously covered the Comic Treadmill's exhaustive examination of ALL giant props) there was the time the Giant Penny decided to go bungee jumping from a helicopter.
Forty. Nine. THOUSAND. Pounds.
Or, one of my favorites: the time it finally had it out with the Robot Dinosaur.
  • "I'm the coolest trophy! Robots are cool; dinosaurs are cool; I am a ROBOT DINOSAUR."
  • "Yes, Rex, you've pointed that out before..."
  • "I'm also the largest trophy! And the most popular! Kids look at the Batcave and say, 'ooo, how cool it would be to have a Robot Dinosaur!' No kids says 'ooo, I want a Giant Penny!' "
  • "Rex, I'm warning you...."
  • "I bet they don't even know your NAME..."
  • "THAT DOES IT---!!!!!"
Little known fact: instead of "rock - paper -scissors" kids in the DCU play "Giant Penny - Joker Card - Robot Dinosaur".

Sunday, January 08, 2012

GIANT PENNY WEEK, #6: Thoughts for Your Penny

So, have you ever stopped to consider... how much the Giant Penny actually WEIGHS?

My estimate; oh, about .... 49,000 pounds.

Happy to show my work, by the way. The Giant Penny is depicted at various sizes, from between about 12 feet high (about twice as tall as Batman & Robin) or up to, oh, I'd say 16 feet high, tops.

Assuming the Penny is 12 feet high (that's usually how it's drawn) it would be about 9.6 inches thick (since it's proportionate with the dimensions of an actual penny, .75 inches in diameter by .05 inches thick).

Since the volume of a penny (even a giant one) would be (pi * radius * radius * height) that gives a volume of between 90 and 91 cubic feet. It's 90.7 if you assume it's a perfect cylinder; it's not, of course, since the heads and tails have raised and lowered areas to form the design. But it's close enough for comic books.

Assume the penny is made of the same stuff as a regular penny (which you KNOW it is, because Gotham City's Giant Props are NEVER just hollow mock-ups; they are always actual working giant versions of whatever they model).

Apparently, I'm not Joe Coyne's biggest fan after all.

In 1947 (that's the year on the Giant Penny, in case you never noticed, and the year the "Case of the Penny Plunderer" was published), pennies were about 95% copper (which weights 542 lbs per cubic foot) and 5% tin (which weights 456 lbs per cubic foot). So, since the Giant Penny is about 86.165 cubic feet of cooper plus about 9.535 cubic feet of tin...

the Giant Penny would weigh an estimated 48,769 lbs. A little less if they used zinc instead of tin.

Which makes some of things the Giant Penny does in tomorrow's post even MORE surprising...