Once again, we count down the top ten stories of the week, in reverse order of importance, as we see it. We begin with a fairly minor market story, but a great excuse to use that picture of Green Lantern falling right on his face that we will never, ever get tired of.
10. DC’s Publishing Strategy Fails To Account For Leap Day. As Michael Doran puts it, “For the second month in a row, DC Comics’ the New 52 has achieved a rare sweep of the industry’s Top 10 selling comic books for February 2012, but for the first time since DC’s historic relaunch of their line in September 2011, Marvel Comics is on top of both of Diamond Comic Distributors Market Share charts.”
It’s a rare accomplishment indeed to beat Wolverine with Aquaman (yes, Aquaman– his series continues to outsell even Uncanny X-Men for now), but DC failed to publish much of significance during the fifth Wednesday in February. To be fair, the last time February had five Wednesdays in it was 1984, when the direct market was still in its infancy, and the next time won’t be until 2040, by which point the top-selling comic will probably star Harry Potter Cullen and be written in Chinese. Still, this “fifth-Wednesday problem” appears to be more of a hole in DC’s programming strategy than a simple problem with sales metrics. We’ll see if it gets plugged by May, the next week it’ll be an issue.
9. “Summer of Valiant” Attempted. On the heels of the Bloodshot movie announcement, Valiant Comics has announced that it will bring four of its better-known properties back to the market this summer: X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Archer & Armstrong and, naturally, Bloodshot. The classic characters once associated with the company, Solar, Turok and Magnus, Robot Fighter, are now properties of Random House. Frankly, Valiant was always an also-ran in the market, even during its “glory days” of the 1990s. And its only real critical darling was Quantum & Woody. But if there’s one thing comics creators love, it’s the idea of making yesterday’s underrated concept into today’s success. Maybe the fifth time will be the charm?
8. ToonSeum Badly Damaged. Heavy rain and a leaky roof cost the Pittsburgh cartoon museum, the ToonSeum, $25,000 in damages. Executive director Joe Wos stresses that virtually nothing that was lost was an irreplaceable artifact, but the items that were damaged were not among those insured by the museum. Rebuilding will take a lot of time and work, and the organization will have to move out in the meanwhile. If you’d like to donate, go to the bottom of this local article to learn how.
7. Daryl Dixon Teased. The Walking Dead TV series has diverged from the comics in numerous ways, and none of the straight additions has been more popular than Daryl Dixon, the loyal redneck crossbow-wielder. The latest advertisements for The Walking Dead comic and a cryptic statement by Robert Kirkman suggest that some version of Dixon may have a future on the printed page. It’s worth remembering, though, that Kirkman’s faked readers out before. (Remember the story where Ultimate Reed Richards met what we thought was 616 Reed Richards, and what turned out instead to be the Marvel Zombies?)
6. John Carter Bombs. While the $250 million project did manage to reach the top of the box office on its day of release, signs already point to a rapid day-by-day decline in revenues. It currently appears unlikely to be profitable for years, at best. The owners of the John Carter trademark are currently suing Dynamite Entertainment for producing John Carter comics, and Marvel has released a more official John Carter series of its own. The implications of such box-office failure for both the lawsuit and the comics should be obvious. Nobody wins.
5. Doonesbury Tackles Abortion Rights. Mere weeks after Buffy the Vampire Slayer waded into the waters of this particular issue, 42-year-old Doonesbury, arguably the most popular political comic in the world, has stirred up more controversy than it has in decades. Doonesbury‘s particular focus is a law in Texas making sonograms compulsory. When discussing the matter, the strip’s creator Garry Trudeau shows the fire that has kept him going all these years:
Texas’s HB-15 isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.
The strips will run next week– in some papers. (As a professional courtesy, Trudeau is providing papers with an alternative, so they need not choose solely between running the controversial installments and blacking out the strip entirely.)
4. Sheldon Moldoff Dies. Even today, Moldoff’s contributions to classic comics are unknown to many fans. The last living contributor to Action Comics #1 (he drew a sports strip on the inside back cover), Moldoff was the first cover artist for the Flash and Green Lantern, and served as the principal artist of Batman comics for an incredible 15-year run, 1953-1967. He was first to draw such characters as Poison Ivy, Ace the Bat-Hound, and the Bat-Mite, and it was his artwork more than any other which inspired the Adam West Batman TV series and the more recent Brave and the Bold cartoon. But don’t look for his name on the books: he was a “ghost artist” under series creator Bob Kane. Mark Evanier remembers him well.
3. Marvel Universe Comes To TV. The new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series will no doubt divide cartoon fans not ready to let the last one go. And some may be allergic to too much silliness in their superhero cartoons, even those clearly aimed at kids. But the show is looking very likely to succeed, and it’s just the opening act. The Disney XD channel (a more action-oriented station than the old-school Disney Channel) will feature Ultimate Spider-Man and five series of shorts: “Marvel Mash-Up” (humorous shorts with Marvel characters, rather similar to Cartoon Network’s DC Nation) “Fury Files” (info on Marvel characters in semi-animated form), “Animated Reality” (stunt performers attempting to duplicate superhero feats), “What Would It Take?” (science and technology attempting to duplicate superhero tech) and “Master Class” some “making of” documentaries about the comics themselves, featuring Joe Quesada.
Quesada is also involved in the Ultimate Spider-Man series, as is Paul Dini, Jeph Loeb, Joe Casey, Steven T. Seagle and, of course, Brian Michael Bendis. And they got J.K. Simmons to play J. Jonah Jameson again, which is pretty much all we need to know. Seriously, we’d watch J.K. Simmons read the phone book.
Personal aside: we think this project would become 5 times better if a role for Cage could be found, not as himself, but as the craziest co-conspirator in the heist. “CAGE STOLE MY FACE… NOW WE STEAL HIS GOD! RNNNRRRRRRRRGGGGHHH!”
1. Moebius Dies. Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius, AKA Gir, died late last week after a long illness.
Best-known in his own country for the Western comic Blueberry, pictured above, Giraud also created a wide variety of fantasy and science-fiction comics, particularly for the magazine known as Heavy Metal in the U.S. He and Stan Lee collaborated on Silver Surfer: Parable, one of Lee’s most notable literary achievements. Where most Americans have shared his vision most often, though, is in the concept designs that he contributed to Alien, Tron and The Fifth Element, which inspired many imitators with its gritty, dirty, real-feeling versions of the future.
Today, such luminary figures as William Gibson and Ridley Scott continue to cite Giraud’s influence both as a film designer and a science-fiction comics writer-artist. His legacy is assured.