Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Late Joanne Siegel's Final Appeal to WB/DC Regarding the Superman Copyright Lawsuit

Entertainment
If you've been reading my numerous posts on the DC Comics Reboot/Relaunch, you may recall that in PART 1 of my series, I posted a long legal research article I wrote on the Siegel Estate's recapturing of their half of the Superman copyright.  There are so many misconceptions surrounding this controversy by people who misunderstand the bottom line in this case.  The bottom line is that the Siegel Estate filed a timely "Termination of Transfer of Copyright" in 1999 and the court has affirmed it.  The Siegels are due their share of profits from all Superman related works published by DC since 1999 and in 2013, the Shuster heirs will be eligible to terminate the Transfer of Copyright that Joe Shuster signed many years ago.  Effectively, at that point, DC will have little to no rights to continue publishing a form of Superman that is derivative of the character as created by Siegel and Shuster.  That's the bottom line.

The moral line is that WB/DC's continued legal shenanigans and countersuits and lawsuits filed back against the Siegels and their attorney in a cynical attempt to avoid payments that are due them (just for works published since 1999)...after prior decades and untold billions of dollars in profits over those years.  It's sickening.  Jerry Siegel's wife passed away this year, just a couple of months after writing a letter to the Chief Asshole....I mean...Chief Executive Officer at Time Warner practically begging him to just do what's right and stop the games and just pay them the percentage that is due.  In other words, as her health was failing, at the age of 93, she just wanted them to act like human beings.

It's not too much to ask or to expect.

I present her letter below, without comment.  It speaks for itself.  And it speaks loudly from the grave.

December 10, 2010

Jeffrey L. Bewkes
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Time Warner Inc.


Dear Jeff,

I am Joanne Siegel widow of Jerry Siegel, creator of Superboy and co-creator of Superman with Joe Shuster. It has always been my policy to be in touch with the Chairmen of the Board of your company going back to when Steve Ross formed Warner Communications.

Steve Ross knew how to take care of large vexing problems. He paid the price, whatever it was, then went on, and the company prospered. He was gracious and friendly when my late husband Jerry and I met him at a stockholders meeting after he sent Jerry, Joe, my daughter Laura and me company stock. He also phoned me to say if we needed anything I should just pick up the phone and call him. He said if he could not be reached for some reason, one of the top officers in the company, Deane Johnson, would handle things personally. Laura and I believe if Steve were alive our copyright ownership matter would have been successfully resolved long ago.

Jerry Levin was also reachable and thoughtful. He sent my husband and later me, cases of grapefruit at the holiday season. He remembered Jerry’s birthday with a Superman sculpture. When my Jerry passed away, Jerry Levin told Laura and me that we are part of the Time Warner family, part of its history. Unfortunately he retired before our rights issues were resolved. He had given his attorneys too much power so that negotiations were unsatisfactory and a settlement was impossible. Dick Parsons, on the other hand, was not friendly and, under him, the attorneys hired by the company were arrogant and pro-litigation.

Now you are Chairman and CEO. Because we are in litigation I held off writing to you. I now believe had we had contact early on, things might not have gone so far off track.
My daughter Laura and I, as well as the Shuster estate, have done nothing more than exercise our rights under the Copyright Act. Yet, your company has chosen to sue us and our long-time attorney for protecting our rights.

On December 1st I turned 93. I am old enough to be your mother. I have grown grandchildren. Unfortunately I am not in the best of health. My cardiologist provided a letter to your attorneys informing them that I suffer from a serious heart condition and that forcing me to go through yet another stressful deposition could put me in danger of a heart attack or stroke. I am also on medications that have side effects which force me to stay close to home and restrooms. Nonetheless your attorneys are forcing me to endure a second deposition even though I have already undergone a deposition for a full day in this matter. As clearly they would be covering the same ground, their intention is to harass me.

My dear daughter Laura too has painful medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, glaucoma, spine disorders, and fibromyalgia. She has already had her deposition taken twice by your attorneys while in pain. Her doctors have given written statements saying she should not be subjected to a third deposition, yet your attorneys are insisting on re-taking her deposition in an effort to harass her as well.

So I ask you to please consider – do these mean spirited tactics meet with your approval? Do you really think the families of Superman’s creators should be treated this way?
As you know, DC and Warner Bros. have profited enormously from 72 years of exploiting Jerry and Joe’s wonderful creation. Superman is now a billion dollar franchise and has been DC’s flagship property for all this time.

As for this letter, the purpose is three-fold:

To protest harassment of us that will gain you nothing but bad blood and a continued fight.

To protest harassment of our attorney by falsely accusing him of improper conduct in an attempt to deprive us of legal counsel.

To make you aware that in reality this is a business matter and that continuing with litigation for many more years will only benefit your attorneys.

This is not just another case. The public and press are interested in Superman and us and are aware of our and your litigations.

The solution to saving time, trouble, and expense is a change of viewpoint. Laura and I are legally owed our share of Superman profits since 1999. By paying the owed bill in full, as you pay other business bills, it would be handled as a business matter, instead of a lawsuit going into its 5th year.

Even though you will no doubt pass this letter on to your attorneys, the final decision is yours. Your image as well as the company’s reputation rests on a respectable and acceptable outcome, and I hope you will get personally involved to insure this matter is handled properly.

The courtesy of a friendly and meaningful reply from you will be most appreciated.

Sincerely,
Joanne Siegel

Friday, June 17, 2011

GREEN LANTERN: A Film Review

Entertainment
GREEN LANTERN
Release Date: June 17, 2011
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard

It's very different coming into a GREEN LANTERN movie than, say, THOR or GREEN HORNET--both comic-related movies this year that I've enjoyed. GREEN HORNET is one I went into with such low expectations and limited knowledge of that I had no preconceptions. As a result, I was able to watch it strictly on its own merits and as such, it worked and had me laughing from start to finish. THOR was quite different. There's a comic mythology at work there and visual design from Jack Kirby that hits me deep within and I was pleasantly pleased by the way that film unfolded as it's own story but also as just another set-up chapter in the Marvel Movie-verse rolling towards the big AVENGERS movie next year.



Now we have GREEN LANTERN. The Green Lantern as a concept has been a part of the comic book pantheon of heroes since 1940 when the original version (Alan Scott) found his magic ring, dressed up like a Douglas Fairbanks Jr. swashbuckler, and devoted himself to combating evil wherever he found it. He spoke his solemn oath as he charged his power ring on the magic lantern:


...and I shall shed my light over dark evil.



For the dark things cannot stand the light,


The light of the Green Lantern!

That version of the Green Lantern lasted until 1951 and then he just...disappeared.

Eight years later, in 1959, DC Comics dug the concept out of mothballs and reimagined the "magic" ring with science-fiction instead and came up with the idea of fearless test-pilot Hal Jordan (thinly modeled on Chuck Yeager) being chosen by a dying alien to receive a fantastic ring powered by his will, limited only by the color yellow (originally because of an "impurity" in the ring but later explained that yellow is the power spectrum of "fear"). The idea was unique to the super-hero genre in that "Green Lantern" was not unique, he was one of 3600 other alien "Green Lanterns", a universal police force that patrols the billions of worlds and combat the greatest of evils throughout all creation.

Which brings us to the film adaptation.


Overall, it is a film that glimpses greatness but always seems to be afraid to achieve it. It's almost like the film itself is metaphorically represented in the opening Earth-bound sequence in which brash pilot Hal Jordan nearly pulls off an impossible feat but chokes at the last minute and bails out of his plane, leaving the plane spiraling down into an expensive explosion.

Now, I'm not saying the movie is an explosive wreck. What I am saying is that I almost think the director choked at some point.

The film crams almost too much into this one film and as a result, the film never feels fully complete. But it's still a fun ride from beginning to end. Any real disappointment is just that it felt like it could have been more. The individual sequences are good, and some are great. It was the weaving them together into a single story that got iffy at times.

In terms of structure, the story begins with a lengthy narration, with visual effects, from Tomar Re detailing the history of the Green Lantern Corps and what Parallax is. Then it jumps to Earth so we can set up a few aspects of who Hal Jordan is. Hal is directionless, reckless, a bit foolhardy, but also an amazing pilot. We learn he is haunted by seeing his father die in front of him in a horrible fiery explosion. We learn he has a bit of a rough sibling relationship with his brother but a close relationship with his nephew. And we learn he has a lifelong complicated relationship with Carol Ferris, the daughter of his employer, Carl Ferris of Ferris Aircraft.


In the comics, Carol is not a pilot but an executive at Ferris Aircraft. In the film, they merge Carol with the more current character of "Cowgirl" who is one of Hal's fellow pilots. This way, Hal (Highball) and Carol (Saphire) can get some action sequencing in while also demonstrating that they know way too much about each other to be "just" co-workers.
I really was a bit shocked when Blake Lively first came on the scene as Carol because it seemed like she was extraordinarily stiff and bland. I will say that as the movie went on, it seemed like she loosened up and I came to like her more by the end. In fact, the sequence that sort of spoofs the sequence from the SUPERMAN movie where Superman comes to visit Lois on the balcony was hilarious and received a huge reaction from the audience. It hit all the right notes.

The sequence where Hal meets Abin Sur, the alien, and receives the ring was outstanding and had resonance. The first time he uses the ring and conjures up that huge fist to take out the three guys beating him up. That was great. The trip to Oa was an amazing visual treat that pulled me right in. I wanted more on Oa. Sinestro, Kilowog, Tomar Re, and the Guardians were all fantastically visualized. Mark Strong's Sinestro commanded the screen whenever he was on it.

However, it seemed to me as if the director, Martin Campbell, was almost afraid to dwell too long on Oa. Branagh really let us take in and relax within the hallowed halls of Asgard. I wanted to lose myself in Oa too, but Campbell wouldn't allow that. In fact, he burned through Hal's "training" by Kilowog in just a couple of minutes and then let Hal get his ass handed to him by Sinestro -- one in a long line of humbling moments for Hal that help prod him through his character arc of maturation, responsibility, and self-less heroism. I am sure the same criticism that some had of THOR as to how quickly his transformation from selfish-boy to self-less hero occurred will also be painted on to the criticisms of this film. It's a legitimate criticism, but not a heavily-weighted one because this is a super-hero film and the transformation is going to happen. It's a conceit of the genre. You either accept it or not. I accept it as a means to an end. That end being Hal fully in charge of his powers and coming up with a plan to accomplish the impossible.

Which is exactly what he does.

Criticize it all you want, but everything was set in place very well by the director to make sure that there were very few plot holes. You may not like how he filled them in, but the holes are few if any.

My feelings about Oa and the other Green Lanterns is that they really should have gone with an almost entirely Earth-based story (with just a glimpse of the bigger picture at the end as a tease for a second film) or downplayed Earth altogether and made this movie more about Hal and his extended training and inculcation into the Green Lantern Corps. Instead, we have a movie unsure about which way to go with all of that and it makes it all seem a bit uneven in terms of storytelling.

The parallel origin arc was excellent. The way Campbell cut back and forth between Hector Hammond's descent into villainy and Hal Jordan's ascent into super-heroism was perfect. In fact, Hector was such a sad character that the audience feels no malice toward him. The setup for him and Peter Sarsgsard's performance won everyone's empathy and made him a very sympathetic villain. Sinestro's arc was also excellent as the audience sees a stern, but basically good soldier, not corrupted BY fear but by the power to CONTROL fear. He also goes from outright distaste and disgust in reaction to Hal to a grudging respect teetering on the brink of outright jealousy.

Ultimately, the bottom line for me really has to do with how I felt about Hal once he was up and fully going with his ring and costume. I have absolutely no complaints there. The costume was amazing. It's heart-stopping for me to see it so perfectly visualized and look so real and believable. I couldn't take my eyes off of it, soaking in how the power just seemed to be pulsing through it at all times. The costume itself reflected Hal's emotions, which makes sense in the mythology of the Green Lantern Corps where the different colors are reflections of emotional states.


I loved the way his imagination used the ring to construct things. His first constructive use after his training on Oa had the audience I was with whooping and laughing through the whole sequence. The manner in which he confronted and defeated the Parallax entity was brilliantly simplistic and consistent with the reckless heroism he had demonstrated earlier. And the appearance of the other Green Lanterns who are a bit dumbstruck by this lowly "human" pulling off what none of them could was uplifting and satisfying.

The greatest moment for Hal, as a character, and the audience, in terms of cheering for the hero has to do with the moment in which Hal finally digs down deep inside and with that will that only he has, pours out his oath from the deepest parts of his soul building in intensity before blasting Parallax with a force the corrupted Guardian has never felt before:

In brightest day,
In blackest night.
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might.
Beware my power
GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT!

Like I said, the film has its flaws but I could do a lot worse in terms of my first live-action GREEN LANTERN movie. I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. Ryan Reynolds totally sold me on his version of Hal Jordan. He was identifiable, flawed, but intrinsically good. And it takes this story to draw that out of him and make him realize the potential within him he has squandered all these years. The audience I was with (a capacity crowd) was rambunctiously into it and launched into spontaneous applause at the end. My teenaged son couldn't wait to get his hands on a light-up Green Lantern ring of his own after seeing it. My wife and daughter went into the movie with no idea what it was about and came out totally digging it. This is a movie that can be enjoyed more than once and I will surely be seeing it again in the theaters. 
As a friend of mine put it after she came out of a midnight showing:  "That was wonderfully Silver Age."

And I totally agree!

I saw it in 3D and can confess that the difference in the 3D for this movie and, say, THOR, is exponential. The 3D effects in GREEN LANTERN are the best I've ever seen them. 

*Note for fans of the GREEN LANTERN comics* Yes, you will want to stay past the first round of credits at the end to get to a payoff scene that you will have been waiting to see...and it is worth it. Also, as the great pounding GREEN LANTERN score plays over that first credits sequence, you will notice the space effects giving us just the barest visual hint about the other color lantern corps. It's subtle, but an obvious homage for the comics fans.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Professor's Journal. June 16th, 2011...

Entertainment
On a private messageboard I post on, I made a comment about my political views currently making me feel like The Comedian (from WATCHMEN) who became a bawling "Jeremiah" when he realized he was the only one who got the "joke" about Ozymandias's plan.

I know, it's not The Comedian who had the "Journal" in WATCHMEN, it was actually the misanthropic Rorshach.  But regardless, when my buddy Eric wrote this up and posted it, I just had to share it with the world because it's flippin' hilarious....and more accurate than you might otherwise think.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DC Comics "Jumps the Shark"

Entertainment

DC Comics has "Jumped the Shark" if this interview found on the Comic Vine website is to be believed.  I think I have been granting DC too much credit and optimism.


CV:  With the introduction of 52 new #1 titles this fall, how did the decision to revamp the entire DC Universe come about? Why now?
 Bob: When Eddie and I came into our new positions, we looked at the universe. We're both fans. We [realized] we have these great properties- we have Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman- and we said, how do we get people really excited about these properties? How do we get them really excited about these characters? What could we do to expand these characters? How do we invite, engage and introduce people to these characters; and that's really how all of this started.
 Eddie: It's been planned for a while, like Bob said. Why now? Because we looked at all the platforms available. We want to embrace the future, and what better time to do it than now?
 CV: What are your goals for the revamp?
 Bob: We want to create exciting comics with great story and art- that's always [been] my main goal. But really, we want to get people excited about these properties and get more and more people reading these characters because these are really incredible characters, and I think Eddie shares in these feelings.
 Eddie: We grew up with these characters and they've touched us in so many different ways. Now we want to make that accessible to more people by having them on different platforms.
 CV: Eddie you bring up different platforms. I know that Bob, when you were at Marvel, you once published a Marvel comic in a TV Guide. Other than digital, do you guys have other platforms you plan to utilize to target new readers?
 Bob: We're focusing on digital. Digital is the main goal because we really do believe that's where more and more people are getting their entertainment.
 CV: Are you at all afraid of alienating your core fan base?
 Bob: I think we're always concerned, and we have no intention [to alienate our fan base] but the thing we want to stress is that we want to get people excited again about these characters. One of the things we're doing is [we are] incorporating some stories from the past that are very important [to the characters] for September going forward- we've taken a lot of care to create a timeline to explain the reasons why this is happening. We've taken into account a lot of important story lines; Death in the Family, Blackest Night, The Killing Joke and Identity Crisis.
 Eddie: I mean we're both fans and we recognize that these stories really had an impact. It also gives us a new direction to go from.
 CV: Part of the revamp is giving characters new identities. I know that in the solicit for the upcoming Supergirl series, she seems like a completely different character...
Eddie: Well she's still the same character, we're just going down to her core. Looking at the characters at their core, looking at them in these new situations that we're creating and seeing how they would react to other characters. We're taking everything back to 'who is this character, how would he or she react to certain situations,' and that's really how we developed some of these new directions.
Bob: We've also been very conscious of making this reality for the real world. Like, what would the reaction be of people coming from outer space with these powers? It's not all gonna be welcomed. So that's the challenge these heroes are faced with and the fact that they continue to be here is the story we're striving to tell.
 CV: One character that's gotten a lot of attention recently is Barbara Gordon. Can you talk about the decision to make her Batgirl again?
 Eddie: It all came from the core of her character. Where can we take Barbara Gordon where we haven't taken her before? That's what we wanted to deal with by taking her in this new direction.
 CV: Why the decision to bring many classic characters, like Swamp Thing, back and to the forefront?
 Eddie: We love these characters. We think these are fantastic characters and we want to share them with a broader base of readers. There's a lot of potential for story . We're at the beginning of being able to explore them fully and do it before a broader audience.
 CV: Will we be seeing Power Girl in the future?
 Bob: Yeah, she'll be around.
 CV: But not in her own title?
 Bob: No, she won't have her own #1 title, but Karen Starr will appear in one of the 52 titles.
 CV: Rumor has it Lois Lane and Superman won't be together after this revamp. Can you confirm or deny?
 Bob: You'll have to read the Super books to find out!
 CV: Action Comics just celebrated it's landmark 900th issue in June; any chance DC will renumber the series again when it hits issue 1000?
 Bob: No plans for that. We're moving forward starting with September's #1's.
 CV: What's the future of Batman Inc.? Is it over or will DC return to that story?
 Bob: We'll be coming back to Batman Inc. a bit later. There are storyline reasons for that decision, but it all works out perfectly for Grant that we'll be coming back later with that.

My thanks to Rich Johnston and BleedingCool.com for pointing out what was not only not answered, but not asked!

Eddie Berganza and Bob Harras both did interviews together for iFanboy, Newsarama, Comic Vine, CBR and The Beat, all released within minutes of each other. And both managed to say very little indeed.
That it’s not a complete reboot of continuity. Which we knew.
That past continuity will still count. Which we knew.
That they’ve been planning it for a while now. Which we knew.
That the books are priced at $2.99. Which we knew.
There’s one point from The Beat interview where Eddie Berganza talks about “a timeline we’ve created, that’s a living breathing artifact” and I really hope he means it in the same way Grant Morrison means it. But I sadly doubt it.
The interviews smack of being managed and even when harder questions are asked, they are generic enough that Bob and Eddie slip away from them without being challenged further.
So here are eight questions that weren’t asked or that they didn’t answer. Any suggestions as to the responses I may have got?
1. In DC comic books published last week, 11% of named creators were women. In the relaunch, 2% were women. Is there a reason for this change?
2. What percentage of current comic book readers do you expect to be cannibalised by day-and-date digital?
3. Day-and-date digital has timeliness demands for content approval that print does not. Editorially what can you do to keep the books in time without bringing in fill in artists?
4. We’ve seen the DC memo that tells artists they must have three issues completed by the end of August or you will have to bring in fill in artists, Considering some only just got the first issue script, is this a realistic achievement?
5. Certain creators have stated they they were told they were working on the book, only to find out days before the DC Relaunch that they were not. This may not have been reflective of the general experience, but do you consider this acceptable man management?
6. What are the measurements for failure of the DC Relaunch?
7. How do you believe the success or failure of the Green Lantern movie will impact on the relaunch?
8. Can you please stop putting those Green Lantern banners on Vertigo titles?

Bravo, Rich!  Bravo!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

THOUGHTS ON DC REBOOT PART 3b (of 3): It Costs WHAT?????

Entertainment

Okay.  Just one more thing about the DC Reboot.  A friend of mine scanned these in and brought them to my attention.  These are from AMAZING HEROES #14 and list every DC Comic that came out in September 1982.  First, go back and look at Part 3 where I went through the list of all 52 comics that DC is dumping onto the marketplace, then take a look at the 1982 listing of a mere 33 comics. 

 


 

 In 1982, I bought every single DC Comic on that list except for that month's issues of SGT. ROCK and WONDER WOMAN.  I was, of course, buying them through a mail-order company called The Mint Delivery System in New York City who was giving me a 40% price-break by ordering a month at a time.  However, had I bought all 33 issues at cover price, I would have bought 29 comics @ 60¢, 2 comics @ $1.25, and 2 comics @ $1.00 for a grand total in September 1982 of ...

$21.90!!!

In September 2011, if I were inclined to buy every single DC Comic on the stands (all 52 First Issues), it would be 48 comics for $2.99 (which I will round to $3.00) and 4 comics for $3.99 (which I will round to $4.00).  Which brings us to a grand total of...

$160.00!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

THOUGHTS ON DC REBOOT PART 3 (of 3): Every Damn Series Starting in September!!!

Entertainment
This may be the most over-analyzed move by a comic book company...

EVER!

So, I may as well contribute my thoughts as well.

PART 1 of this blog series contained a legal research article I wrote back in 2000 when the Siegel Estate's lawsuit against DC Comics to recover partial ownership of the Superman copyright was just beginning. Ultimately, the issue at hand at that time was whether the Siegel Estate had successfully terminated Jerry Siegel's earlier "transfer of copyright" to DC Comics and my conclusion, based on the facts available and the law at that time was, yes, they had successfully done so.


PART 2 discussed some key developments up through the 2009 Summary Judgment in the Siegel Estate's favor and my thoughts on how that decision has driven nearly every corporate and creative decision as it relates to the Superman copyright and trademark (and the DC Universe of characters by extension).

PART 3 will move on from the legal and corporate shenanigans and focus on a fan's perspective and thoughts concerning the announced reboot of the entire DC Universe line of comics and flooding the market with 52 first issues of new ongoing series.


My initial thoughts are more concerned with what was NOT included in this initial offering more than what IS included.  I find it quite odd that there is not a JUSTICE SOCIETY or SHAZAM! series on the September launching pad but garbage like GRIFTER and HAWK & DOVE made the cut.  It makes me seriously wonder just what is really going on in the editorial offices.  We can figure out the seed-reason for the changes.  That boils down to a corporate decision to shore up the Superman ownership issue and let Dan Didio make his mark and legacy.  And I will give Dan a couple of props.  First of all, he is a brilliant carnival barker (second to Stan Lee) in that I have never in my life seen someone shmooze and work the cons and the fans the way Dan does.  He is always fun, funny, and charming.  I've never seen him with anything other than a smile on his face and a willing handshake.  He also gets props for actually following through on this idea that he's had in his head for years.  I may not agree with it and I may not like how the details all fall out, but he doggone did it and that's a substantive achievement. 

On the downside, I think his decision is driven by ego more than anything truly creative.  And that, in the long run, will be the undoing on this whole REBOOT nonsense.  We've seen some of his "relaunches" already, such as the horrible Bruce Jones written WARLORD and DEADMAN redos as well as the obscenely awful BATMAN: ODYSSEY by Neal Adams that was supposed to give us a peak at the early years of Batman.  But instead all we got was monumental suck.  These were under Dan's regime and stunk up the comic stands.

I would love to have seen a METAL MEN, METAMORPHO, and KAMANDI series in the bunch rather than kindling like GRIFTER, STORMWATCH, 2 LEGION series, 4 JL series, etc.  Spreading out all these new series out over a few months would have been preferred and, absolutely, NO character or team should be starting over in a reboot with multiple titles all at once.  Build up interest and enthusiasm and desire to see more of the characters first and then follow up with the new series later.  By dumping all of this all at once, the "reboot" winds up coming with it's very own continuity weight from the get-go.

The biggest problem I am seeing in this crazy venture is that they aren't really "rebooting" (other than Superman) and are just rearranging the same incredients, wrapping them in different flavored tortillas, and declaring that it's a "brand-new" menu when it's really just the same old Taco Bell.  When the first appearance of these characters brings with it a world in which there are still 4 human Green Lanterns and 4 current or former Robins running around, then really, what ultimately was the point of this other than one more false sense of change for short-term profit and long-term suck?  They could've done all this kind of house-cleaning just like they did the "One-Year Later" gimmick a few years ago and just kicked off the "New" DC and these new titles and status quo changes without the fiction of a "reboot."  It's not really a "reboot".  It's not starting from scratch and going forward.  Some characters are starting fresh but it really looks like most of them will still be retaining at least the broad points, if not the specifics, of the past continuity.

Which makes the DC Reboot nothing more than one more sales gimmick in a line of sales gimmicks.  And that wears me down as a reader.  It's why I barely buy any comics from DC and Marvel at this point anyway.

But I want to reinforce one thing that I think is getting buried in my cynicism.  I see a spirit of excitement and creativity coming from the creative artists and writers working on this relaunch.  That is infectious and makes me interested in a lot of it, even if I don't break down and buy the new series.

If it took something this bold to re-inspire the creative talent and/or empower the editorial staff to let the creative talent break boundaries and do something truly new and fresh, then I applaud the decision.

However, I think that philosophy could've taken creative root without the need for the bread and circuses stunt I've been watching unfold over the past couple of weeks and on into September.  I'm sure there will be huge bursts of interest initially, but the telling point will be one-year after the event and looking at the numbers to see where they stabilized at or sank.

So, here I go diving into the first 52 of the "new" DC Universe with the official solicitation info and then my reactions:

THOUGHTS ON DC REBOOT (Part 2B): Is this the perfect time for Capt. Marvel to go "Black"?

Entertainment
I'm actually not being facetious when I say that the DC Reboot is the perfect opportunity for DC Comics to really be bold and progressive with the Capt. Marvel/Shazam character at the same time they "re-imagine" Superman to be new and relevant for the new Millennium.  With the line-wide relaunch of DC Comics, with an expressed policy of diversity in the line to better reflect the modern world and our culture, I believe they should brush the dust off of Roy Thomas's idea from the early '80s of Billy Batson and Captain Marvel as African-Americans.

To my knowledge, this image of Cap & Billy by then-current SHAZAM! artist, Don Newton and inked by later POWER OF SHAZAM! artist, Jerry Ordway, is the only visual image we have of Roy's idea.

The make-up of the DC Universe at the time was one in which the main heroes of the line existed on "Earth 1" and there were different groupings of heroes that occupied parallel "Earths" that existed in other dimensions vibrating at a different frequency than the "Earth 1" dimension.  The decision had been made back in the early '70s when DC acquired the Fawcett Publications library of characters, which included Capt. Marvel and the entire Marvel Family, to keep the characters consistent with the original cartoon-ish looking world they occupied in the 40s and 50s.  By necessity, since the "Earth 1" DC Comics were supposed to reflect the "real" world, editorial relegated Captain Marvel/SHAZAM! to the parallel world referred to as "Earth S" (or Earth-Shazam).

DC did allow fans one glimpse of what could be construed as the "Earth 1" version of "Capt. Marvel" in a one-off story in SUPERMAN #276.  

 Longtime comic readers were already familiar with the character.  Young Billy Batson, when he speaks the name of the magical wizard "Shazam" he turns into the World's Mightiest Mortal, Capt. Marvel.  Capt. Marvel is empowered with the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury.

In this story, the "Earth 1" version, young Willie Fawcett (a tribute to Capt. Marvel's original publisher, Fawcett Publications) is granted by a wise old Native-American shaman a magic belt that turns him into "Capt. Thunder" (a nod to the original name for Capt. Marvel that was changed before newsstand publication of WHIZ COMICS).  Capt. Thunder is empowered with the "Seven Spiritual Powers": the Power of the Tornado, the Speed of the Hare, the Bravery of the Uncas (warrior chief of Mohegan tribe), the Wisdom of Nature, the Toughness of the Diamond, the Flight of the Eagle, and the Tenacity of the Ram.

More common in those days, this character was intended to only appear in this single issue as a tribute to Capt. Marvel and an inside joke for fans. 

Then a few years later, DC decided to expand upon their usual practice of once-a-year team-ups between the Justice League of "Earth 1" and the Justice Socity of "Earth 2" by  drawing in the "Squadron of Justice" from "Earth S" (made up of the Marvel Family characters and other Fawcett characters like Bulletman and Crimebuster) for a multi-part epic team-up.  For the first time ever, Superman and Capt. Marvel met face-to-face...and this time it was for real. 

Sales on the "cartoon" version of the SHAZAM! comic book had been increasingly lackluster and buttressed by the slam-dunk appearance of "The Big Red Cheese" in that JUSTICE LEAGUE story plus the fairly successful live-action Saturday morning SHAZAM! series, DC retooled the SHAZAM! comic book with an all-new "realistic" look from artist, Don Newton.  The artwork was gorgeous, but still the concept and the stories didn't seem to connect with readers and reflect higher sales.  The SHAZAM! comic book was cancelled but the SHAZAM! feature itself started bopping around to oversized anthology titles like WORLD'S FINEST and ADVENTURE COMICS until it disappeared completely.

During this interim period before he got folded into the primary world with Superman as a result of CRISIS OF INFINITE EARTHS, the character was sort of in creative limbo other than occasional pop-up appearances whenever the dimensional gulf could be traversed by a plot complication.  This was the period in which Roy Thomas (according to the Comics Buyers Guide #538 in 1984) proposed, along with SHAZAM! artist, Don Newton, a bold re-invention of the character for "Earth 1".  He proposed making both Cap and Billy black.  He even went further in his proposal that DC could call this version "Capt. Thunder" as a way to distinguish him from the "Earth S" version, even though the multiple Earths concept had often allowed DC to maintain 2 separate versions of characters with the same names and powers (Green Lantern, Superman, Flash, etc.). 

DC rejected the proposal.

For whatever reason, DC seemed happy to essentially have their entire "black" line-up out of hundreds of super-characters be limited to "Black Lightning, Vixen, Cyborg, and occasionally Green Lantern (when John Stewart would fill-in for Hal Jordan)."

So, now we have the perfect opportunity for DC to show some real balls in this whole "reboot" nonsense.  I think it's pretty obvious that the impetus behind this relaunch of the line and rejiggering of characters springs first from the need to establish a solid new and relevant version of Superman.  However, that foundation has led to a full-scale opportunity for DC, from an editorial standpoint, to clear out the cobwebs and sweep the floor of anything in continuity that does not serve their proactive goal to rise to the top of the comic book sales market.  The dizzy and slack-jawed response from Marvel indicates that all those "non-disclosure agreements" that everyone involved had to sign must have worked and DC has made themselves essentially the ONLY comic book publisher anyone is talking about this summer.  And part of what DC has made clear to the press and fans is that they want the "New" DC Universe to be a much more diverse continuity in terms of race, religion, and sexuality than ever before and they want it to be so from the get-go.  And in response I say, that from a creative standpoint, I cannot imagine a better time for DC to do something much bolder than taking Z-stringer characters like Blue Beetle, Question, Aqua-Lad, Batwoman or new characters like Batwing and diversifying them.  Be bold enough to diversify the one character that is a conceptual equivalent to Superman and at the height of the golden age was more popular than even Superman himself!  Without insulting ghetto-ization or blax-ploitation, brush the dust off Roy's 30 year-old idea and ignore all that has gone before (and especially ignore the terrible "Capt. Thunder" version of the SHAZAM! concept that appeared in FLASHPOINT).  Prop up Capt. Marvel/Capt. Thunder as an African-American and make no apologies.  Position him as effectively the equal (and possibly superior) of Superman himself and make him a vanguard of equality in this relaunch. 

If DC is not going to give Superman an ethnic look or make Batman a man of color or even at least give Wonder Woman a hint of Greek ethnicity in her look, then Capt. Marvel is the perfect character to show that DC is not a pantheon of heroes in which the white man still reigns at the top of heirarchy.

It is time.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quite Possibly My Favorite Movie Poster EVER!!!!

Entertainment
When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield.
If he’s led to a fight and a duel is due,
Then the red and white and the blue’ll come through
When Captain America throws his mighty shield!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

THOUGHTS ON DC REBOOT PART 2 (of 3): Lawyers, Comics, and Heirs...Oh My!

Entertainment

This may be the most over-analyzed move by a comic book company...
EVER!
So, I may as well contribute my thoughts as well. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

IGN Sticks Politically-Correct Foot in Mouth

Entertainment
I must laugh!

IGN originally reported today:
Along with the other Batman announcements made today, DC revealed plans for a more diverse line of Batman comics. Alongside Batwoman, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Birds of Prey will be Batwing #1, starring the first ever African-American character to don the mantle as the Batman of Africa. Written by Judd Winick with art from Ben Oliver, Batwing #1 should answer the question about whether or not Batman Incorporated is still relevant. [emphasis mine]
In a quick-witted and funny move, Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool almost instantaneously published a post that corrected IGN that this character is not at all "African-American" but actually....as the "Batman of Africa" he is....quite frankly...."African-African". 

IGN promptly moved to correct the story like this:

Along with the other Batman announcements made today, DC revealed plans for a more diverse line of Batman comics. Alongside Batwoman, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Birds of Prey will be Batwing #1, starring the first ever black character to don the mantle as the Batman of Africa [Editor's note: mistakenly originally reported as African-American, Batwing is African]. [emphasis mine again]


However, may I point out that they are wrong about THAT as well?!

Ten years ago, in 2001, DC ran a 12-issue mini-series called "JUST IMAGINE...." and the hook of that year-long series was that it was a universe of their most famous super-heroes but "re-imagined" by Stan Lee, the man who made Marvel Comics....well....Marvel and the elder statesman of comic book artists, Joe Kubert himself. 

And guess what "race" Stan and Joe chose to make their version of Batman? 

Why yes, you are correct. He was an "African-American." 

 hee-hee. 

Shoddy reporting AND political correctness BOTH.  I'm sure IGN is loving all this "positive" attention.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The TRUE reason for the DC Comics' Reboot in September...

Entertainment
Superman co-creator's family given rights - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety

Siegels now control character's Krypton origins
By Marc Graser

Warner Bros. and DC Comics have lost a little more control over the Man of Steel.
In an ongoing Federal court battle over Superman, Judge Stephen Larson ruled Wednesday that the family of the superhero's co-creator, Jerry Siegel, has "successfully recaptured" rights to additional works, including the first two weeks of the daily Superman newspaper comic-strips, as well as portions of early Action Comics and Superman comic-books.


The ruling is based on the court's finding that these were not "works-made-for-hire" under the Copyright Act.


This means the Siegels -- repped by Marc Toberoff of Toberoff & Associates -- now control depictions of Superman's origins from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-El and Lora, Superman as the infant Kal-El, the launching of the infant Superman into space by his parents as Krypton explodes and his landing on Earth in a fiery crash.


The first Superman story was published in 1938 in Action Comics No. 1. For $130, Jerry Siegel and co-creator Joel Shuster signed a release in favor of DC's predecessor, Detective Comics, and a 1974 court decision ruled they signed away their copyrights forever.


In 2008, the same court order ruled on summary judgment that the Siegels had successfully recaptured (as of 1999) Siegel's copyright in Action Comics No. 1, giving them rights to the Superman character, including his costume, his alter-ego as reporter Clark Kent, the feisty reporter Lois Lane, their jobs at the Daily Planet newspaper working for a gruff editor, and the love triangle among Clark/Superman and Lois.
You can read the entire article (rather than just this pertinent snippet) at the jump in the headline.

I wrote a legal analysis piece back in 1999 about this case and will try and dig it out and format for the blog this weekend along with some commentary on how this case (and the Simon vs. Marvel case mentioned in my piece) developed and what it has wrought.

For now, this is a big week of news for WB/DC.

Huge Block of Reviews of Arrden & Atlas Comics

Entertainment
FLASH GORDON, COMEBACK KINGS, MINX,
GRIM GHOST, PHOENIX,  and WULF Reviews

 
FLASH GORDON: INVASION OF THE RED SWORD #2(PART 2: THE MISSION)

Writer: Brendan Deneen
Artist: Eduardo Garcia
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

“I guess I should be surprised that you're still alive, Ming, but I'm not.” – Flash Gordon

A good follow-up to the first issue in this newest miniseries. Artist Eduardo Garcia settles in quite nicely on the art chores as we pick up on the cliffhangers of the first issue. The plot complication that scrambled the translators on Mongo so that the various races and tribes could no longer communicate is quickly resolved and Ming moves to the forefront.

I continue to really enjoy the pacing and storytelling in Arrden's FLASH GORDON comics. Vultan is developing into a favorite and plot points to pick up on are well laid regarding his relationship with his daughter. Likewise, Dale is proving herself to be a strong, attractive character fully justifying the attentions of both Ming and Flash. That I'm inwardly rooting for Ming is a sign of a well-developed villain.

This issue adds more depth to Ming's background and makes the reader almost clamor for an unlikely partnership between Ming and Flash against a common enemy – the humans who are invading the planet Mongo.

I look forward to what comes next and recommend this series and the trades of Arrden's previous FLASH GORDON series.

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THE COMEBACK KINGS #1
Writers: Matt Sullivan & Gabe Guarente
Artist: Ethan Young
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

“The fame justifies the means!” – Jean-Luc Lambert (before blowing himself up live on television)

Okay. Not so hip to this one. Billed as a “dark satire.” I get the “dark” part, but I'm not feeling the “satire” part. It seems right now like just a “gag” project--the type of thing that a couple of guys might come up with while sitting around a beer tower at a hotel bar after hours at Comicon.

Anybody else seen “Bubba Ho Tep”, where an aged Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy still live and have to team up to take down a resurrected evil Egyptian mummy? It's good stuff. Played straight, but a very dark comedy/horror flick that (I think) is growing in cult status. Well, this is sort of spiritually in the same ballpark but instead of Elvis and J.F.K, we have Elvis and Bruce Lee and Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman and Tupac Shakur.

It's Project Resurrection and an older Bruce Lee has to come out of hiding, for some inexplicable reason, and “get the band back together.” In this case, the “band” is the above odd grouping of dead celebrities who, in this comic, faked their deaths.

I wanted to like it. The art is pretty good, though very inconsistent in the look of the characters. It was almost like the artist couldn't decide from page to page whether our “celebrities” were supposed to look the way they looked when they “died” or actually age them by the decades that they should be. Plus the appearance of Tupac seemed especially out of place and the interaction between him and Bruce Lee was just odd and implied some kind of a past relationship that didn't quite gel with the timeline as best as I could tell.

Now, if it had been played a bit broader with a go-for-broke style comedy (like, say, BLACK DYNAMITE) I could probably appreciate it more. However, I think I could tell when something was intended to be funny...but it wasn't working for me. And especially, I didn't see the “satire.” What exactly is being commented on here? I get that it's a funny thought that these (and the big “surprise” not-dead celebrity) are actually out there functioning like a super-secret A-Team of dead A-List Celebrities (though Kaufman would be the oddball there). But beyond that, I lost interest about halfway through.

I give it a “B” for effort, but a “C-” in the end.

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MINX #1
Writer/Artist: Andrea Grant
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

“Where do humans go when they dream? Does the soul leave the body and wander in another dimension? There is an urban legend which claims if you die in DREAMTIME you'll not awaken in real life. THIS IS TRUE. It's the reason the gods never dare to slumber sound.” – Andrea Grant

This comic intrigues me. I find Andrea Grant's art very good; in fact, I am an instant fan! And I love that she is aspiring to touch something deeper, more primal, and archetypal than your average comic book. That intrigues me.

Apparently Grant is a member of a Native American tribe and she is building this comic book around a certain spiritual worldview that believes and accepts that there is a dream dimension that we live in during our sleep. In our waking hours, we lumber along through the world of the mundane, but when we sleep we enter a world of fantastic possibilities and adventure but also horrific dangers.

Minx is the story of a woman who seems able to blur the dimensional lines and is attacked by a creature from the dream dimension and nearly killed. Instead, she spends the next seven years in a coma. In the comic, she closes her eyes in one panel and opens them in the next and it is seven years later.

Her struggle to adjust to the world and her relationships when seven years have passed for everyone else but merely moments have passed for her make a good set-up for her story. I may be inferring too much, but I get the impression based on the way this issue wrapped up, that she has quite a lot of history built up in the dream dimension called “Dreamtime” from the last seven years asleep in a coma and it is not going to be an easy transition back to the world of the mundane.

Her story is one of two worlds and I want to read more of that story. Check it out and see if you agree.

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GRIM GHOST #2
Writers: Tony Isabella & Steven Susco
Artist: Kelley Jones
Publisher: Atlas Comics

“The Fringe. It's a world wrapped around and within the living world, a place where lost souls seek their ultimate fates.” – Michael

Better and better and better. The first issue of GRIM GHOST was good. This second issue is better. The pacing picks up. The art gets more expressively dark and moody.

Michael, the man who has passed from this world into “The Fringe” but can't remember his past, begins to...remember. At the same time, we get the backstory that was missing from the first issue as to the earthly relationship between Dunsinane (Grim Ghost) and the evil, demonic Braddock.

And the thing is, neither of the three come out smelling like roses. They are all flawed yet powerful, and morally nebulous. Braddock is the most outright cruel and evil, but both Grim Ghost and Michael show aspects that reveal that they are willing to be less than holy themselves in order to accomplish their purposes.

I'm hooked. Really enjoyed it. There's something about the look and feel of this series that evokes the nostalgia inside of me but is as modern as anything else out there.

GRIM GHOST, like the other Atlas Comics titles, is solid, good comics and well worth taking a look and committing your time and energy.

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PHOENIX #2
Writers: Jim Krueger & Brendan Deneen
Artist: Dean Zachary
Publisher: Atlas Comics

"You should have killed me when you had the chance!” – Max

I don't have much more to say on this title other than, if the first issue intrigued you, then this issue does not disappoint.

The art is gorgeous. The storyline a bit harrowing when putting yourself, as the reader, into the footsteps of Ed Tyler and his resurrection nightmare. He's on the run from the aliens who were killing him repeatedly and just trying to stay alive and sometimes failing at that.

This is a comic that hits the ground running and never stops running. It is over before you realize it and leaves you on another great cliffhanger moment. The mystery is not only unfolding but deepening with the appearance, almost Constantine-like, of a mysterious “detective” who seems out of place but also knows much more about what is happening to Tyler than he should.

I continue to be impressed by the way the characters react to this situation and I noted the first inclusion of a reference to Detective Lomax from the WULF comic to tease the reader with knowledge that these Atlas characters do indeed co-exist within the same world.

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WULF #2
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Nat Jones
Publisher: Atlas Comics

“I let you down. Ever steady, ever strong, always by my side. Rest well, my friend. Rest well.” – Wulf (saying goodbye to his dead horse.)

Saving the best for last, WULF ran away with the Atlas prize this month. Simply put, the synthesis between writing and art was complete once this team had their footing after a somewhat lighter-paced first issue.

This one really does have it all. A sword-wielding barbarian with an honor code, a hard-boiled New York police detective, terrifying bloodthirsty other-dimensional monsters, and a horribly disfigured powerful evil wizard.

With a radical twist on the “buddy cop” formula, I really dig how Niles is developing the relationship between Lomax and Wulf. There is a real sense of sadness in Wulf, the Barbarian, who has lost everything (seemingly) and Lomax picks up on this and reaches out to him. He can see the good heart within. However, in a shocking scene, Wulf demonstrates violently how he still is a barbarian raised in a world where brutality rules the day and is the first choice when confronted by evil.

The desperation and depravity of the villain in this story is dark and tortured--perfect for the tone of this violent but entertaining comic book. Not for the faint of heart though.

The writing rocks this comic and the art is just slightly primitive enough to give it a look and feel of something other-worldly.

I recommend WULF highly. This was my favorite comic of the past week.