Category Comic Books

Will DC Comics’ Massive Reboot Help Them Stay Relevant?

Will DC Comics' Massive Reboot Help Them Stay Relevant?

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A few weeks ago DC Comics did a gigantic rebrand/reboot to their entire universe called the New 52, and well, it’s an interesting route to go. I’ve been reading comic books for over 20 years now, and I have a silly amount of comic book knowledge in my head. At heart I’m a Marvel kid, I’ve always been a fan of X-men, and in recent years, all of the Avengers stuff that Brian Michael Bendis is doing. That said, DC has always been doing some great work with Vertigo (which isn’t really DC Comics and shouldn’t be lumped together) and I love what Geoff Johns did with the Green Lantern comics in Blackest Night.

But this New 52? Ugh. I’m going to concentrate on Justice League, which is being written by Geoff Johns, who is basically their main creative, and drawn by Jim Lee, who was basically the most popular comic book artist in the 90’s. Here are some thoughts on Justice League, and I’ll wrap up with some other comics.

The Logo
DC Comics is owned by AOL Time Warner, one of the largest companies in the world, and Justice League is DC’s flagship title. So why does their logo look like it was made by a high school kid? Title design in comic books has always been lacking, and this just goes to show that there’s little to no movement in that area. I have no idea what that font is, but it couldn’t be more generic. DC Comics and The New 52 are all bright and golden, but the Justice League logo? Little to no care.

The Character Designs
Superman Redesign A big deal has been made about the redesign of the characters, all of which were done by Jim Lee. This may have been an insanely big deal… 20 years ago, but Jim Lee hasn’t changed his style in roughly that same amount of time. I know that’s why a lot of comic book readers love Jim Lee, but personally I see that as a being a really bad thing.

The costume redesigns might look different to a long-time reader, but the point of the New 52 is to get new readers on board. I can’t imagine someone unfamiliar with superman thinking that this looks at all different. Why reboot an entire universe if you don’t want to do something new and exciting? Superman’s cape now hangs magically off of his clavicles, he no longer wears red underwear, and there are now all of these weird lines all over this costume… how edgy. I guess there was a giant internal conversation over whether or not Wonder Woman should have to wear pants, which sounds completely sexist to me, and Batman has tech-y gloves. These are really the things that should considered when redefining a character?

The Story
I guess I shouldn’t comment too much on the story of just the first issue, but for $4 all I got to see was Batman and Green Lantern making stupid banter for 20 pages, 4 pages of a young Cyborg not-yet-turned-into-Cyborg, and one page of Superman. I’m sure it’s setting up everything but the entire thing felt cliched. Batman being chased by the cops (who have insane weapons) chasing a bad guy trying to get information when Green Lantern comes in and gets all Lantern-y.

When the Marvel started the Ultimate Universe they decided to take familiar characters and themes and twist it. The Ultimate Universe is now what the Marvel movies are being based on and expanding into new markets. It feels like DC is trying to be edgy, but it feels like they’re trying way to hard, like Batman calling the cops “idiots”. Batman is so bad ass.

Overall I feel bad for DC, as it’s bad for comics in general. DC seems like they’re trying really hard, but they’re not doing it right. They’re reusing tired, old comic book cliches and not coming up with any new and exciting ideas. I wish it was exciting and new, I wish they made Marvel look like chumps with an amazing story that surpasses anything they’re doing, but they aren’t, and it’s a shame.

I recently read an interview with Brian Michael Bendis, who in my mind is the smartest, most talented comic book writer out there. He was talking about how he killed off Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe and replaced him with Miles Morales, a half-black/half-hispanic kid who happens to get powers. This is exactly why I think Marvel is doing the best work these days.

“It’s where my head’s at, man,” he says. “For this genre particularly to matter, it’s gotta feel real. People say, ‘Yeah, if I had powers, this would be my life.’ That was always the magic of Peter Parker and the Marvel era of comics when it first debuted is that if you had powers, you wouldn’t really change all that much. You’d still have the same problems — they’d probably be worse.”

There’s also big missteps like the new, gay Teen Titans character who couldn’t look more stereotypical, they’ve got Rob Liefeld (the worst comic book artist in history) drawing Hawk & Dove again, the Static Shock writer quitting and they keep making these damn Subway advertisements with their characters.

Please DC Comics, get your act together and start telling good stories again.


Stussy x Marvel

David Shrigley's Hulk for Stussy x Marvel
John K's Crystal & Johnny Strange for Stussy x MarvelTodd James (AKA REAS)'s She-Hulk for Stussy x Marvel

I’m a little late on this but recently the Californian based clothing brand Stussy joined forces with both Marvel Comics and a group of artists to create a series of special edition t-shirts. This is the second series in their Stussy x Marvel range and this one is particularly great because of the talent that they’ve been able to attract. Above you can see some good examples of the kind of thing to expect from the series, with each superhero being re-imagined in the artist’s signature style. Above, you caught David Shrigley’s Incredible Hulk, Ren and Stimpy creator John K’s take on Crystal and Johnny Storm, and Todd James’s She-Hulk. They’re pretty crazy but I think they’re really great.

The talent doesn’t end just there either, check out their site and you’ll see people like the LA tattoo artist Mr. Cartoon, the American animator Bill Plympton and British illustrator Will Sweeney have all contributed designs for the project. I think my personal favorite might be James Jarvis’ take on The Thing which just has so much character. If you’re interested in finding out more about the project I’ve included a little video below the cut which was made by the guys at HBTV. It’s fairly typical marketing schtick but it’s worth the watch to see plenty of the artists speaking about the influences that Marvel has brought upon them and you’ll also catch Mr. Cartoon do a sweet little rendition of the Spiderman theme!

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Trailer for AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’

To say that AMC is leading the pack in innovative television programming that might be an understatement, this coming from a guy who doesn’t even watch TV. But with their successes with Mad Men, Breaking Bad and now Rubicon the network is certainly making some great decisions with it’s original content. So the fact that they’re turning The Walking Dead, one of the finest comic books out there, in a series is amazing.

I’ve been reading The Walking Dead for a while now, I even posted about it a couple years ago, and it’s definitely a top notch story. Where you might think it’s just a standard zombie story it’s actually a human drama that just happens to have a bunch of dead folks walking around. The real dangers of their world are the people they run into, not knowing their stories, their experiences and their motivations.

The trailer looks extremely hopeful, the zombies are totally creepy and the environments they’re running around in don’t look fake or CGI. Could this be a Battlestar Galactica for zombie fans?


‘The Magician And The Snake’ by Katie and Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola, the amazing illustrator and creator of Hellboy, recently completed a short comic story with his daughter Katie, age 7, and it’s a beautiful and touching little ditty. It’s about a magician who is proclaimed to be the best ever after he makes a set of shapes disappear. But he tells his best friend the snake that by doing this he’s sealed his fate and that the shapes will come back and take his life one day. So he and the snake live out the rest of their lives until the shapes do come back one day and take the magicians life.

It’s crazy to me that Mike Mignola can take such a simple story and concept and create something that’s so amazing around it. I think my favorite part is when the snake is hissing from the top of the tower, the beam of light from the shapes engulfing him.

To read the rest of the story be sure to click here.


‘Asterios Polyp’ by David Mazzucchelli

Last weekend (I think) I was in Skylight Books, as is usual for me to do on my weekends, and while browsing the comics and graphic novels I came across this book called Asterios Polyp. The name immediately struck me because it was suggested to me by a reader who wanted to help me out named Rhea Rivera. There’s also the vibrant as all hell cover, as well as who the author/illustrator is, a Mr. David Mazzucchelli.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with comic books, Mr. Mazzucchelli was the artist behind Frank Miller’s amazing Batman: Year One storyline as well as illustrating Daredevil which Frank Miller was also writing for a time. The thing is, this was all happening way back in the mid to late 80’s. David Mazzucchelli is something of legend when it comes to comic books, but here he is now in 2010, finally releasing his very first graphic novel.

The story is centered around a man named Asterios Polyp, who when we first come upon him you can clearly see that his life, which is filled with designer furniture signifying he has wealth, has somehow fallen apart. Suddenly, lightning strikes the generators outside of his apartments, setting fire to the building until eventually it’s all gone. And that’s where we start, on a voyage with Asterios as he tries to put himself back together while seeing how he got so very low.

The book is exquisitely drawn and designed, it’s hard to even describe how brilliant this book is. The style is nothing like his old comic work, it’s much more stylized like an Italian or French comic book. It’s a simple style that allows the story to dominate the pages, while at other times the art completely shifts tone, illustrating a plot point with a visual punch.

I also thought I’d include these images of the endpapers, which I thought were quite wonderful. Once you read the story you’ll understand the significance of flowers, but it’s subtle touches like this that really make this story so wonderful.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book now.


Redesign Superman #1

At the end of February comic book writer and all around lunatic Warren Ellis asked the readers of his blog to redesign Superman as if it was being released today:

You are an artist/designer. You have to put together the cover for a comic called SUPERMAN. It is issue 1 of this book.

You have been told that Superman is a man who dresses predominantly in a shade of blue, and wears a red S symbol. You know nothing else about the character.


And that’s it.

It’s up to you what kind of company you’re at. What kind of comics you make. How you translate that description of Superman. What era you’re in. Who you are, even. Go nuts with it.

A lot of the entries were, well, kind of janky, but the cover above by the very talented Tom Muller definitely caught my eye. I’ve posted about Mr. Muller before and I’m sure this won’t be the last time. I love that he didn’t try to go with any kind of superhero motif, he simply made an awesome and interesting cover. If I saw this comic sitting on a shelf I would buy it in a heartbeat. This is exactly the reason why I always say that there needs to be more graphic design in comic books.


‘Absolute Ronin’

Two of my biggest are design (obviously) and comic books. Sadly though, these two worlds hardly ever mix unless Chip Kidd is involved. So it was nice to see DC redesigning a new version of Frank Miller’s classic Ronin into a huge, deluxe version they’re calling Absolute Ronin. This new Absolute version was designed by Amelia Grohman who I think did a wonderful job. She was really able to capture the spirit of the book by blowing up a lot of the images from key scenes in the book, giving you an intimate look at the wonderfully detailed line work of Frank Miller.

I actually had my boyfriend read this last month because he wanted something “fun and action-y” and I thought this fit the bill. If you’ve never heard of it before, I’ll paste this long but accurate description of the book for you:

“The story involves a feudal Japanese samurai whose master has been slain (a ronin), a magical sword, and a shape-shifting demon who intersect with an apocalyptic future New York City wherein neo-Nazis, Black Panthers and the occasional sixties survivor drift around in toxic squalor, making tribal war with one another in the shadow of an über high-tech research facility where a limbless, telekinetic man-child with unknown powers is being held in the care of a sentient biological computer (which seems to have its own agenda) and the computer’s creators, including the beautiful female Chief of Security, struggle to contain and negotiate the use of their diabolical biotechnology.”

I’d highly suggest grabbing this book if you’re looking for a comic book with a bit of depth, great artwork and a lot of fun. Tachi.

Found through Faceout Books


Iron Man 2 Trailer

In my opinion, Iron Man was definitely one of the best superhero movies ever made. It definitely treated the genre with more realism and didn’t bother to make things cutesy. Now we’ve got Iron Man 2 coming out on May 7, 2010, and boy howdy is it looking good.

To start there’s the cast. You’ve got The Wrestler himself Mickey Rourke, who’s comeback couldn’t have been better and now he gets to play a crazy, Russian dude with giant electro-whips. Then there’s Don Cheadle, who randomly took the place of Terence Howard. I think it’s lame they did that, but I do love Don Cheadle more than Terence. Finishing up the new editions is Sam Rockwell who plays Justin Hammer, a rival of Tony Starks and I’m guessing, a beneficiary of Mickey Rourke’s charcter… or at least that’s how I’d write it. Oh and of course I can’t forget Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow, who’s going to be beating people up in a skin tight, leather cat suit.

Watching the trailer you’re treated to more of RDJ’s whacky billionaire who you can’t help but love. He’s almost the comic book version of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. The visuals look great yet again, Whiplash’s whips, the armor moving, War Machine fighting dudes… it’s all there.

I’m definitely stoked to see this.


The Invincible Iron Man Redesign

Rian Hughes is going to be giving Invincible Iron Man a sort of retro inspired redesign once the new storyline launches next month. He, along with series writer Matt Fraction, wanted to create a drastic change in the feel of the cover, marking a new era for Tony Stark. As Fraction says:

‘Iron Man’ will look like an elegant, aggressive, and forward thinking piece of quite frankly gorgeous design. It will be a design artifact appropriate for the coffee table of any forward thinking home… ‘Invincible Iron Man’ is going to leap 10 feet off the racks. You’ll be able to see it a mile away. I’m so excited to have gotten to work with Rian.

I think they’ve done a great job, especially with the bits of op art and and 60’s color palette. I also love the Penguin Books inspired header, which is clean and easy to read. I’ve thought a lot about how a lot of comic books have horrible title design, and wondered why more effort wasn’t put into it. James Jean comes to mind, with his work on Fables which always incorporates the titles wonderfully. Comic books need more creatives like Rian Hughes helping out.

Found through io9


Rafael Grampá

I’m a sucker for artists and illustrators who use a ton of detailed lines (see Destroy Rock City and Geoff Darrow) and Rafael Grampá is no exception. Starting out illustrating self help books, he know has a graphic novel called Mesmo Delivery under his belt as well as another new one called Furry Water coming out in 2010. These two were my favorites of his work. The top one is of Madman, he was asked to contribute this by Mike Allred for an issue. The other is his version of Daredevil, a boxer inspired costume which plays more into the roots of the character. Both are phenomenal.

Click his name above to visit his blog, and click here to visit his Flickr.

Found through Red Yawning