Wednesday, April 08, 2020 

The industry would rather close than go digital

Engadget says that, if digital format has an advantage at a time when Coronavirus has led to a lockdown, the industry appears to be making itself look all the more absurd by rejecting it:
...Less logical is that, unlike literally every other media industry, the product wasn’t simply released digitally to consumers stuck at home. Instead, the entire comics world is on hold. [...]

But what do you do when there are no brick and mortar stores to sell to? Apparently you just don't sell products at all. Anything that was scheduled for a physical release from Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse is on the back burner, either rescheduled for a later date or placed in limbo. Some digital-first titles like Freedom Fighters: Rise of a Nation will still be up for purchase on ComiXology and Kindle, but anyone looking forward to Batman #92 is out of luck until April 29th, at the earliest.
If they're talking about the Tom King-penned Batman series, few are looking forward to it, and any admiration he might've once had outside the industry among customer bases has since collapsed, after he not only scrapped a marriage between Batman and Catwoman, but worse, took to slaughtering characters in the Heroes in Crisis miniseries, made Wally West out to be a criminal, and to date, it hasn't been mended. So I wouldn't consider recommending that particular book, if I were them.

But, if it matters, of course there's a valid argument in favor of digital itself, if that's really what it takes so customers can at least get all this stuff in spite of the lockdowns. Plus, if it leads to a cheaper solution, then obviously the publishers aren't taking it. They have a big chance to do something creative that could aid their business, and opportunity's being missed. The article also says:
Between the Diamond stoppage and so many stores shutting their doors, it makes sense that many people are predicting that "comics are dead." Comics and the shops that sell them share a long history, which has created a strong sense of camaraderie. The direct market helped mold the biggest four companies — DC, Marvel, Image and Dark Horse — and created the culture around them, too. The stores were what helped Marvel stay afloat when it was in trouble after a string of bad decisions in the '90s and '00s. Retailers and publishers mingle socially all the time as well, at conventions and retailer summits. It's not just business at this point, it's personal. The comics industry is built on loyalty.
See, that's the problem. Loyalty to corrupt mainstream publishers who've foisted tons of bad stories upon them over the past 2-3 decades, which overshadowed the better ones, wouldn't make the pamphlet copies returnable, yet the store managers are supposed to put up with that? I find it odd how the article refers to the specialty stores as Marvel's element for survival, when they could just as well have made the full shift to paperback/hardcover even then, and had their books visible to a wider audience while still maintaining sales at specialty stores all the while, which the columnist could just have easily offered as an opinion, discussing what could've been or should be done, yet they take the easy route and make it sound like this was the only way they can do things.

And now, a lot of publishers are once again missing huge opportunities to take steps that could help them out of their dire straits, though if it's mainstream superhero fare we're talking about, they got almost nothing to look forward to anyway, except company wide crossovers that crowd out stand-alone storytelling. Hmm, maybe that explains everything.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020 

Comics Beat interviews Al Ewing, interviewer lets his own leftism be known

The ultra-biased Comics Beat interviewed Ewing on his Immortal Hulk run, and what's fascinating is that the interviewer's leftist politics and dislike for Donald Trump is even more noticeable than Ewing's:
The Beat: The first twenty-five issues of Immortal Hulk featured a lot of body horror elements. With issue twenty-six, you’ve shifted your focus from that to more of a capitalist commentary with kaiju fights. Can you talk about your decision to change that focus?

Al Ewing: I don’t think it was quite as sudden as that. For one thing, I’ve been telling people this all weekend, body horror is coming back in issue thirty-three, the big 750th legacy issue. Before that, leading up to issue twenty-five, we’d brought in various political ideas. We’d brought in the environment as a theme. I think the through-line there is both in the horror of the everyday, and anger as a theme. I was really thinking about things that make people angry, and of what makes them afraid. If you’re talking about the end of the world that we’re currently living through, it’s both anger-making and horrifying.

The other thing I touched on, particularly in issue twenty-six, is the Hulk as a counter-cultural figure. If you look back at those early issues, he’s hanging around with juvenile delinquents. In the ’60s, Iron Man’s building weapons for the military industrial complex. Hulk is beating them up. From a time before Stan Lee thought, “Actually, I’m feeling very counter-cultural myself,” Hulk was still the earliest example. I feel like Immortal Hulk is a book where we can do that and it won’t be out of place. It’s been an interesting journey, though I think some readers didn’t appreciate it as much as others. I don’t think it was unnecessary or that it veered off-track.
I find it interesting he doesn't mention Hulk beat up villains antagonizing the military far more, not the least being the communists in those early days of the Cold War origins. Even as Bruce Banner's Hulk side detested the guy who'd become his dad-in-law (Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross), he was willing to rescue him from dangerous situations if Thunderbolt was threatened by villains, and while the Hulk may have been responsible for a few deaths by his own hands, he never tried to murder most US military officials.

And why does Ewing consider the Hulk counter-cultural, but not Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, X-Men, or even Thor? It's not like they weren't admired by counter-cultural types, if that matters. Even Superman could've been considered a favorite adventure of the counter-culture crowd. What's annoying is Ewing's suggestion he believes the military to be rotten to the core, with no redeeming values. They don't even consider that when Lee came up with all these fantasy adventures, he portrayed commies negatively, even in the Hulk's stories, recalling an early one where Hulk and Rick Jones were menaced by commie agents, and the green titan said, after stopping a grenade from causing disaster, "do these commies think they're playing with kids?" Here's where they get around to speaking favorably of liberal stances:
The Beat: It just feels very prescient. I feel like I see a lot of what’s going on today reflected in this current arc. I see, I’m gonna say it, a very Trumpian villain in the Minotaur.

Ewing: The Minotaur is Trump before he became Trump, but you could say Trump, or Jeff Bezos, or Mike Bloomberg. If somebody went up to me and said, “The Minotaur reminds me of Bloomberg,” I would say, “Oh. Ok.”

The Beat: I say Trump because of the way the Minotaur dispatches his subordinates, like we’ve seen on the news recently.

Ewing: I will say, as a British person, we don’t have the same respect for the office as the Americans have. They have a strong respect for the office of the president. The current situation, which I think is similar to Nixon, is a different dynamic. I don’t like to comment on American politics in my personal social media feeds because British politics are so appalling. How would I spare the time? Nobody wants to see me talk about Trump when Boris Johnson is the British Prime Minister.

So the Minotaur, for me, isn’t going after anyone in specific, but it is definitely taking a political stance. I try to avoid pretending to be an expert in another country’s politics, but I think there are certain political stances that can and should be taken. If I choose to make the work apolitical, that is itself a political decision. Likewise, if I don’t throw all of myself into the work then that short-changes the reader. Not every book would do this, though. You’re not going to get stuff like this in Guardians of the Galaxy, for example. Hulk is special. And part of what makes Hulk special is you can do this.

The Beat: It’s in the DNA of the character.

Ewing: Yes, exactly.
This sure is telling plenty, not the least being the interviewer's own hints and confirmations of bias. And Ewing doesn't deny it, though he's evidently trying to cover his tracks and insist Minotaur represents liberal figures as much as conservative ones for the sake of moral equivalence. I honestly expected no less. If the Minotaur uses deadly force, it's in poor taste to compare him to Trump, because when Trump removed staffers he felt weren't delivering from his government cabinet, he didn't use deadly force like Doctor Doom could. Ewing may not try to play expert in foreign politics, but as noted earlier, he has used the Hulk as a platform for politics that became a problem in any western country. And what makes him think Americans have some kind of herd mentality making them inherently respect the presidential office? Back in Reagan's era, the left hardly respected him. In fact, what makes Ewing think the Trump situation is throughly similar to Nixon? Sure, Nixon did do stuff that was offensive, but I get the strange feeling Ewing might not think those matters count, ironically enough. In any case, his villification of Trump is done without citing any valid reasons, which seems to be the common MO among leftists of his sort. I won't say Ewing has to like Johnson, who's currently in hospital for Corona treatment, but if Ewing doesn't think Jeremy Corbyn was a bad lot, then I don't see what his problem with Johnson is by contrast.

As for their claim you can "do this" with the Hulk, because it's supposedly in his DNA, is that really so? Gee, and I guess if you depicted the Hulk as an outright terrorist supporter, a racist, or lenient on sexual assault, that would be okay? Anybody who's going to say a character meant as an anti-hero, who could initially take questionable positions but ultimately wound up doing the right thing in the end, is possible to do anything with that their personal politics condone, has got to be pretty desperate and out of their minds.
The Beat: You’re allowed to stretch those limits.

Ewing: Hulk is, I think, the most limitless character Marvel has. Part of that lack of limits is that you can speak to things that superhero comics generally shy away from. I say that, but I’m not doing anything Steve Gerber didn’t do. Or Steve Englehart. I’m following the traditions of Marvel in the ’70s. Maybe this is just part of comics. To be honest, I haven’t had that much back-chat on it. Editorial have been wonderful in letting me do things my way. Joe [Bennett] has been wonderful as an artistic collaborator, and I’ve been working with him to make sure the stuff he wants to do is in the book. And the readers seem, generally, willing to come onboard. There are times when I thought I’ve gone too far on certain things. But I’ve been very happy with it.
As I've said before, the whole notion the Hulk is without limit is utterly ludicrous. But what's Ewing mean by the superhero genre avoiding certain things? Marvel under Axel Alonso certainly didn't by the time they got around to turning Captain America into a Nazi in their 2017 Secret Empire crossover. Ewing's not following Bronze Age traditions any more than any other modern writer who's long thrown away reason for the sake of rabid ideology, as he put in only so much forced LGBT propaganda, and recently made Bruce Banner out to look bad, contradicting Bill Mantlo's storytelling horribly. He's gone too far alright, yet he's obviously not sorry (and the CB interviewer doesn't seem the least bit concerned). But have readers truly been willing to climb aboard? Sales of 20,000 to 50,000 are far from a victory, especially when you discover so many copies still gathering dust at the stores, mainly because of the non-returnable policies.
The Beat: With the great success you’ve had I’m not surprised people are sticking with the book. You’ve blown them away, the book is a breakout.

Ewing: I’m very grateful for those who have stuck with it, and maybe that includes people who are picking up the book and reading things they don’t agree with. I’m grateful to those readers as well. I can’t give them half a job. I need to put all of myself into it, and sometimes that means going to these places.
Claimed again without citing any sales figures, I notice. Yup, we get it. So if they decide to stop reading because of what they disagree with, will he stop being grateful? Or is he just grateful to anybody who feels buyer's remorse after the fact?
The Beat: You’ve explored Hulk as this anti-authoritarian hero of the people since he’s taken action against Roxxon.

Ewing: I think he’s always been heavily anti-authoritarian. He’s always had a strong following in the counter-culture, in those early issues like I said with the Teen Brigade.

The Beat: I meant more in how it’s reflected in the journalist character Jackie, and how she’s jealous that Bruce gets to express his rage in a way that she can’t. And now that sentiment is kind of applied to the world as he’s captured the world’s anger and is directing it at Roxxon. Is he the hero we deserve or the hero we need?

Ewing: We’re going to get to a point that questions what is effective. It’s not saying that anger isn’t effective, it’s about how Bruce may fall down in other ways. It’s tough because the Hulk is not Batman. He’s not a hero with a plan. I think in that sense, at this point in time, someone with a plan is needed? But also that rage, that anger, is valid. As an avatar of rage, the Hulk should not be feared and we shouldn’t be locking that anger away. He’s also a representative of people with dissociative identity disorder. There’s a lot of things that the Hulk is, but the question is whether it’s enough for Roxxon. That gets to a larger question of, in the real world, how do we deal with late-stage capitalism? How do we deal with the horrors in our lives? I’m not sure I have the answer, but maybe I can at least provide a moment of catharsis.
So the Hulk's anti-authoritarian, but nobody else is, huh? Tell us about it. Did Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade condone the idea of Hulk injuring and killing military officials like Thunderbolt? Nope. And again, the jade giant was never the only star in superhero worlds to acquire a following with counter-culturalists. Let's remember his first volume in 1962 was not an immediate success, got cancelled after 6 issues, and following guest appearances in a few other books, most notably Avengers, that's when Stan Lee was finally able to build up popularity again, and continued more solo adventures in Tales to Astonish, first alongside Ant-Man, then the Sub-Mariner, before taking over the numbering in a solo book that became far more successful the 2nd time around. It's hardly the first time any Marvel hero could go after Roxxon over their corrupt activities either. But curious Ewing should frame it all as a bad case of capitalism. Apparently, he's the kind of Euro-socialist who believes capitalism's inherently negative, and decided to use Roxxon as the representative.

They go on to talk about his work on Guardians of the Galaxy as well, and it sounds like he made sure to exploit it as a political platform for all it's worth:
The Beat: You’ve employed this reflective and summative look at the Guardians. You’re taking advantage of their history; these characters are tired and beaten down. Was that the hook that you found in the group, to examine the characters and what they’ve been through over the course of the last couple of years?

Ewing: Part of it is that I do enjoy telling stories about characters who are at the end of their rope in one way or another. There are a lot of people who like their superheroes to be indefatigable and ultra-powerful. I always find superheroes at their most interesting and most heroic when they’re at their weakest. The idea of starting with the Guardians as just burnt out, it made it interesting for me and, like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to get into something without getting into current politics. But maybe I could touch on the feel of current politics.

The Beat: You get to make up your own politics in a cosmic landscape.

Ewing: There is that, but I wanted to give the sense of not knowing where things were going, but we know they aren’t going to be good. I think in a way it becomes more of a holiday from the world than an actual reflection of it, but I wanted to do space politics. Part of that involves treating the Guardians as veterans of wars. At what point do you say, “You can go home.” If you treat them as superheroes they’re always expected to go out and keep fighting. There were a lot of people who were astonished that Gamora would say, “No, I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m not re-upping, I’m not re-enlisting. I’ve done my tours.” And she’s done about ten. That’s why I’m not treating them as superheroes but as a group of veterans. That’s something that’s definitely come out as I’ve written it, and it’s part of the appeal in that I think treating them as superheroes almost lessens them as characters. I feel like I’m continuing where Donny [Cates] left off in that respect. He started a procedure and I’ve carried on from him, but obviously doing it my way.
It's not so much "making up" his politics, so much as it is channeling his personal politics into the books. So I won't be shocked if he (and Cates) takes an anti-war approach to dealing with the Guardians, and while I'm sure Ewing is doing it his way, it probably still isn't all that different from Cates, if he too went by a liberal slant. It's one thing to depict the Guardians as veterans, but another to make them look much more tired of wars than need be. The original Guardians, developed by Roy Thomas and Arnold Drake in 1969, were battling metaphors for communism. And when Jim Valentino developed the early 90s take on the Guardians, he gave it a sense of fun adventure, which helped distinguish it from the grittier stories occurring at the time in various other comics. A newer approach depicting the Guardians as weary vets doesn't sound the same as the earlier renditions, and Ewing's probably let his politics cloud any chance of that too. I don't expect Cates' take to be any better.

In the end, this is also a fascinating example of an interviewer not concealing his own biases, eschewing the idea of remaining neutral even as he could ask about the politics in a book, and letting his mindset cloud all concerns about whether the writer disgraced Bruce Banner for the sake of shock value at the expense of past story developments that were handled far better than what modern writers on corporate-owned characters are doing.

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Monday, April 06, 2020 

Micah Curtis won't be sorry if the industry collapses under the disaster it brewed

Russia Today's got an op-ed from technology reporter and indie comics writer Micah Curtis, who's not going to shed a tear if the mainstream superhero factory tumbles down, with the Coronavirus crisis possibly precipitating its demise:
Comic books have long been a mainstay of entertainment, and over the last decade have given the inspiration to some of the biggest films of all time. However, the medium itself has had its issues. Between fan backlash towards blatant politicking and books like Captain America, Superman and Wonder Woman seeing constant declines in sales, the industry isn’t an entertainment powerhouse in its own right. Comic book shops in the United States had been closing left and right even without the pandemic. The history of the mainstream comics industry is treated like the barely beating heart of a dying god. It’s more of a legend with a small amount of followers than a giant to be in awe of.

Covid-19 has proverbially infected the ability to ship comics as well, with the biggest distributor in the industry, Diamond, stopping all shipments for the foreseeable future. There has been some attempt at adaptation in the industry, with DC comics looking to continue digital distribution, and joining other publications in making current shipments returnable. However, whether or not this will have much of a difference is debatable, considering the availability of digital comics hasn’t stopped sales from plateauing in the past. Smaller companies like Valiant and Dark Horse are ceasing digital distribution for the time being or production entirely.
Simply put, if the product's artistic quality is bad, then who wants to buy a digital file for it? No wonder digital sales haven't worked out. The offensive antics of some would-be writers is another damaging factor:
Some would even argue that it is these writers that have caused the problem in the first place. Many tend to run block bots against customers, or are openly hostile to any sort of criticism. Writer Mags Vissagio openly threatened potential customers, saying to “get ready for a baseball bat to the teeth.” Venom writer Donny Cates is openly hostile to modern readers as well, saying “F*** every single one of you” while half-heartedly hoping people are healthy during the pandemic. This behavior doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in how focused someone is on their work, or whether or not this is the type of person you’d like to financially support. Beyond that, the current writer of Captain America is former Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is infamous for writing that 9/11 responders are “not human” to him. Not the type of person who should be writing a character draped in the American flag.
No indeed, absolutely not. Some of these writers may have stopped online antagonism after C.B. Cebulski became Marvel's EIC, but not all of them. The failure to keep ill-tempered characters out of any entertainment industry is exactly what leads to such a nasty infestation.

With all that told, most interestingly enough, as per Newsarama (via Cosmic Book News), we learn Marvel's cut a third of their line for May and June:
Marvel Entertainment is immediately "pausing" work on - and the release of - approximately one-third of its May and June comic book issues, a spokesperson confirmed for Newsarama. Marvel's representative said 15 to 20% of its solicited titles would be affected, as some of them are twice-monthly in May and June. [...]

Asked when the publisher intends to resume publishing the issues not affected by the pause, the Marvel spokesperson said "as soon as more information is available, we will outline our longer-term plans."
However, according to BGR, they're also giving away a number of comics for free on digital services, including:
Avengers vs. X-Men, Civil War, and the Dark Phoenix saga are all included.
Wow, some of the most overrated storylines are all they can offer. The article says Coates, Cates and Jason Aaron's writings are on the list of digital items they're dishing out. No thank you; Curtis already mentioned how bad some of them are.

And, since we're still on the subject, here's something else that stopped, coming from IDW, their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, which became a form of LGBT propaganda:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles writer/artist Sophie Campbell has tweeted that IDW Publishing has instructed her to stop production on the series "for now", with plans to stop after #105. [...]

It's unclear when or if production on the series will resume, and if so if Campbell will be involved.
Isn't the scribe's name actually Ross? Well anyway, if this rendition of TMNT grinds to a halt, it'll be a blessing for fans of the original material, seeing how under the current ownerships like Nicktoons, it's cascaded into social justice disaster. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird shouldn't have sold their creations, and money can't be everything.

So, as Curtis argues, he won't be sad to see some of these publishers go under. Those who avoid political correctness and identity politics are the ones to hope can survive this situation. But the industry's also going to have to adapt - as I've argued before - to formats like paperback and hardcover GNs if that's what it takes to obtain better distribution for their wares. They can't continue to act like they'll be able to survive forever on monthly pamphlet installments that cost 4 dollars-plus.

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CBR's sloppy take on the Nobuhiro Watsuki/Rurouni Kenshin scandal

CBR's written about the now negative reception of Nobuhiro Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin, who's gone from legend to pariah status (overseas, anyway) ever since he was first arrested for storing child porn in both his office and house, yet only got a lenient sentencing. And there's something they get at least half wrong:
If you were judging Watsuki by his work, he'd probably be the last manga-ka you'd suspect of such a crime. Rurouni Kenshin was a deeply moral series about atoning for one's sins and didn't contain even a hint of the inappropriate sexuality that's common in many otherwise-respected manga.
Umm, if we were to take the anime adaptation from the late 90s as an example, that's not entirely true. In the latter half of the anime series, there was a Prince and the Pauper variation episode where Yahiko was forced to the floor while the main stars and an old aide of a princely figure pulled off his clothes to dress him differently. And in that scene, just before the commercial break, IIRC, the way the animators set up the character actions made it look like the old geezer was going to rape him. If Watsuki ever supposedly had a problem with that, I have yet to find a statement from him, and even if one did turn up, it's just too late. What this does suggest is that somebody whose manga only makes minor use of sexuality as opposed to violence (there was plenty of that), could be a lot slimier than somebody who makes major use of it, whether it goes overboard or not.

And since we're on the subject, their talk of "inappropriate" sexuality is ambiguous, and that poses a problem. How can anybody judge clearly if they don't describe what elements are inappropriate, such as sexual assault scenes played for cheap shock value and sensationalism? Or how there's stories depicting affairs and marriages with brides who're under 16-18 years old? If we don't know what exact elements they find reprehensible, they're not clarifying, and make it sound more like they believe all sexuality is a bad thing (unless maybe it involves male homosexuality like yaoi manga?). Such failure to clarify is precisely why no improvements will ever be made to entertainment, and everything will only be made worse.

They do make a valid argument regarding 2 other mangakas who continued to associate with Watsuki:
Making the situation even more uncomfortable is that Watsuki was a mentor figure at Shonen Jump due to Kenshin's success, and it seems he's maintained that standing even in light of his crimes. One Piece's Eiichiro Oda and Shaman King's Hiroyuki Takei were two of the most famous artists trained by Watsuki, and they still seem to consider him a friend. Oda even interviewed Watsuki this year for a planned Rurouni Kenshin exhibition in Japan.
Okay, here, there's a legitimate argument to make that disciples or not, they're making a dreadful mistake to continue associations with him, and local "traditions" shouldn't have to apply when the subject does something criminally offensive. Nor should there be an exhibition held for the Kenshin work, and outside Japan, most sources like Viz and Kodansha stopped publication a few years ago after the scandal broke.

And the columnist does make a valid point that if Watsuki still holds on to these repulsive beliefs of his, then it'd be better not to put money into his pockets if he wound up taking said money and spending it on all that abominable child porn next. Rurouni Kenshin may have once meant something to segments of the manga crowd, but now, overseas, it's mostly been rendered worthless.

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Sunday, April 05, 2020 

The ComicBook news site fluff-coats their interview with the new America Chavez writer

ComicBook did a laughable interview with Kalinda Vasquez, who's writing the next take on SJW-themed America Chavez. Here's something odd mentioned about the character:
Marvel's America Chavez is back in a new ongoing series coming later this year, and we had the chance to talk to writer Kalinda Vazquez all about it. The new series is titled America Chavez: Made in the USA and is set to dive into Chavez' origins as well as the origins of her impressive power set. That said, it will also serve to spotlight Chavez as a character and her internal struggles with identity, both from the point of view of a LatinX hero living in modern-day America and as someone who wasn't born on Earth. Those themes are what led to Vazquez taking a closer look and exploring the character's origin story in the new series, and you can even get an exclusive sneak peek at the art (which includes a certain Kate Bishop) from the series below.
Wait a minute. Are they saying she's an alien in human form?!? In that case, how can she truly be Latina, or any Earth-based ethnicity? Surely that doesn't contradict the premise they supposedly set out to establish?
"Speaking as a Latina woman, I was thrilled when America Chavez was introduced to the Marvel universe," Vazquez said. "Growing up, I loved comics, but you didn’t see too many LatinX heroes back then, and I think it’s wonderful that a younger LatinX generation will be able to see themselves reflected in pages of Marvel comics. Specifically in America – a powerful, heroic and noble figure. Beyond her ethnic identity, America is a character who I think has even more potential beyond what we’ve already seen. She has a complicated relationship with her identity, because she is not of this earth and in many ways, she’s had the experience of an outsider. These are really rich themes to explore – and it’s particularly this notion of America as an outsider that drew me to dig into her origin and work with the amazing team of Marvel editors to go even deeper into her past than has ever been done before."
I guess she never heard of Bonita Juarez, Marvel's Firebird, co-created in 1981 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, debuted in The Incredible Hulk #265, and later made appearances in West Coast Avengers. I guess Bonita doesn't count because Mantlo developed her as a Roman Catholic adherent, and it conflicts with today's ultra-liberal vision, explaining why she wasn't considered for the star of her own solo book, or why the above writer didn't lobby for an assignment starring Bonita instead.
"Oh there will definitely be some new villains for America to face both during this series and after! It’s a true privilege to be able to work Sana Amanat and editor Annalise Bisa as well as artist Carlos Gomez to expand America’s mythology and deepen her 'villain bench'," Vazquez said.
But the real villain is Amanat. Because she's been only so instrumental in tearing down what made the MCU work, and seeing her name on the project is reason enough to avoid it.

All that aside, some interesting discoveries have come up that the very people this book is geared for aren't going to buy the book no matter how it's written or drawn. Artist Carlos Gomez made the subject look hotter, which, granted, is better than making her look absurdly masculine like what happened with Carol Danvers several years ago, and for this the anti-sex crowd on Twitter attacked him. But, chances are this still won't be worth reading, assuming it even goes to press at all during the time Coronavirus is still a serious issue. Though the reaction to the latest character design is similar to what J. Scott Campbell experienced when he drew Riri Williams, the contrived diversity replacement for Tony Stark, with a tank top. Given the Riri Williams Iron Man series was cancelled early on, and few complained, it proves without a doubt those attacking Campbell never had any intention of buying the series anyway. And chances are, no matter the quality of story and art in this new rendition of America Chavez, they won't be buying it either.

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One of the reasons Peter David's Supergirl was cancelled

Newsarama interviewed Peter David about his 1996-2003 Supergirl run, and he gave one explanation why it fell apart in the end:
Nrama: One of the most remembered stories from your run was “Many Happy Returns” - issues #75 through #80. What went into developing that story? Did you know it would be your last of that run?

David: I wanted to bring back the original Supergirl. It was as simple as that. Sales were dropping, I wanted to do something dramatic, and I felt that was the best way to go.

I actually had something longer-term in mind. I was hoping they would let me keep her around and that we'd transform the book into an "S" version of Birds of Prey teaming up my Supergirl, Kara, and Power Girl, and call it 'Blonde Justice.' Unfortunately, the editor brought in some utterly incompetent artist to do the first couple of covers, and that was all the art DC chose to show. Sales tanked. By the time people picked it up in the store, opened it and saw the fantastic art inside, it was too late.
It's a shame, but, it's certainly a stark contrast to some comics today - great looking cover art (and variants), but truly mediocre art inside, if not truly awful.

Not mentioned, however, is that shortly after, DC gave Jeph Loeb, a pretty overrated writer who's almost all style and no substance, the task of bringing back Kara Zor-El as the Kryptonian Supergirl, and that could've played a part in the dreadful cover art for David's last issues. In other words, they threw David under the bus, just so they could give a writer of their choice the assignment for restoring Kara to the spotlight, in the combined Superman/Batman title Loeb was writing at the time. While I'm favorable to the idea itself of reviving Kara, the way they went about it was galling for at least 2 reasons in retrospect: Lyla Michaels, the girl known as Harbinger during the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, showed up in this story on Themyscira just so she could be killed by Darkseid's minions who were out to kidnap Kara, leading to the second issue - she was turned briefly evil by Darkseid's brainwashing, just so Superman would have more frustration to go through before he could set things right again. I've argued before it's become aggravatingly cliched whenever a story comes about where Superman's turned evil as a plot device, and this was obviously no better. And here's the funny part:
Nrama: Did editorial tell you that you needed to introduce that version of Kara or was that your idea?

David: Mine. I actually had to fight with them to allow me to do it.
Judging from this, you could justifiably assume the editors - not the least being Dan DiDio - stole David's pitch from him and never thanked him for it. After his Supergirl series concluded, Linda Danvers quickly vanished, almost as though she'd never been. Bring back the original Kara, that's fine, but considering David's take was auspicuously brought about, that's why the circumstances leading to Kara's return were insulting, and the solo book launched from Loeb's take the following year went nowhere fast. Kara - at least initially - had no secret identity, the book relied on too many guest stars, and they even did some early social justice pandering, like giving Kara large underpants to conceal the underside of her skirt, all because of absurd complaints about the fanservice, and at one point even tried drawing her with a "realistic" waistline. Sure, some of that fanservice did go overboard in their attempts to compensate for weak stories, and the fact that Eddie Berganza was the main Superman group editor is exactly why it's not bound to age well. But complaining about sexiness in itself does nothing to improve the overall storytelling when here, David dabbled in the same and provided more satisfying writing than what came after.

I guess that's why it's a shame he won't elaborate on whether he feels betrayed by the higher echelons who basically took his proposal and gave it to somebody else whose artistic record wasn't as satisfying. Given that DiDio's now gone from their employ, and David's star power faded by the end of the 2000s, I don't see why he can't be clearer on what he thinks. I own some of his Supergirl work in my Superman collection, and think it was worthy of the Superman family legacy, and it's a pity they didn't pass on the mantle as respectably as they could. Of course, given that DiDio ruined continuity at the time, chances are, even if David could continue, it would've been spoiled anyway. Especially by all those company wide crossovers.

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Saturday, April 04, 2020 

The Clinton adminstration didn't think Diamond was monopolizing comics distribution

The Conversation wrote about the history of publishing and distribution, how it's been brought to a standstill by the Coronavirus crisis, and they make an interesting note about why an investigation into Diamond's business conduct was dropped 2 decades ago:
When Heroes World proved incapable of supporting Marvel’s needs, the company folded in 1996 and Marvel joined forces with Diamond, the only other distributor still standing. That same year, the Bill Clinton government began investigating Diamond as a monopoly. But the government dismissed the case in 2000, finding that the new company was not monopolistic because comic books were only a small part of the overall publishing industry.
That was their reasoning? Because comicdom was only one cog in a circuit? Not good, because Diamond became a monopoly in one specific industry, and one could argue the Clinton administration's staff in charge of the inquiry screwed up badly by failing to recognize that all segments of publishing are vulnerable to monopolies, be it newspapers, magazines, history writers and science fiction.

However, it does hint at what Clinton and company must think of comicdom. Because, in their words, it's just a small potato in a sea of big ones, whatever goes on behind the scenes is excusable as the medium in their minds is expendable. So why do so many industrialists respect the Clintons, then? They didn't help the medium one bit by letting Diamond off the hook. And now, we're seeing how even that much could be collapsing as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak damaging business conduct.

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Friday, April 03, 2020 

Alonso's AWA is going to be a shared universe

In this Hollywood Reporter interview from 2 weeks ago, Axel Alonso reveals that not only did he and Bill Jemas open their own separate company, they're even gambling on a shared universe, starting with a certain overrated comics and screenwriter's entry:
Among the releases is the first issue of The Resistance, the series that launches AWA’s shared comic book universe, written by Sense8’s J. Michael Straczynski. The Hollywood Reporter talked to Alonso, AWA’s chief creative officer, about launching AWA’s shared universe, about the high concept behind that universe and The Resistance in particular and about the committee that helps set the guidelines for things moving forward.
Can you honestly trust somebody who brought down the previous shared universe he oversaw to deliver satisfying results on a new one? I think the simple answer is "no", and the concept behind it is bound to be low. Though at a time when Coronavirus has led to businesses stalling, their little venture sure was poorly timed. But anyway, the interview continues with:
Why build a shared universe? It’s a space where, as much as the success of a Marvel or a DC has demonstrated the value of such a thing, we’ve also seen a number of younger publishers struggle to establish their own shared universes with fans; at best, it’s a risky proposition.

As they say, no guts, no glory. Yes, creating a common universe is challenging, but the rewards can be wonderful. Every popular character, every best-selling book brings more fans to every other story. You can build on your successes. That said, the world has changed a lot since it gave birth to Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spider-Man — why wouldn’t its heroes? Shouldn’t today’s superheroes exhibit the hopes, dreams and fears of a new generation? Shouldn’t they reflect that generation in all its diversity?

The first seeds of our new universe are planted in The Resistance; you’ll see what grows out of it in coming months. We have a plan to carefully and patiently build a superhero universe for the 21st century, one that’s rooted in the present, and has its eyes trained on the future, and think the pedigree of our creative counsel and the writers and artists that join them gives us a competitive edge.
A better question is why they believe anybody cares about an allegedly shared universe developed by the same people who took the Marvel universe apart? Again, we see hints this'll be a concept built on left-liberalism, as "diversity" has long become a giveaway. The world's changed plenty, but only the leftist ideas are reflected in entertainment.
You mentioned The Resistance, which is written by J. Michael Straczynski, who you’ve obviously had some success with when you were both working on Amazing Spider-Man together. What made him the obvious choice to lead the charge, so to speak?

Is there anyone better at laying down the foundation for a new universe than Joe Straczynski? From Babylon 5 to [his Top Cow comic book series] Rising Stars to [Image Comics series] Midnight Nation to Sense8, with mind-bending re-imaginings of Squadron Supreme, Spider-Man and Thor along the way, Joe is without peer when it comes to world-building. He creates living, breathing worlds inhabited by diverse three-dimensional characters. All of that is on full display in The Resistance No. 1, where he — and artist Mike Deodato — lay down the bedrock of our universe.
Is there anyone worse for destroying the foundation of a universe than JMS? The man whose grip on Marvel continuity was dreadful, didn't do a good job with Fantastic Four or Thor when he wrote them for a year or so, and, lest we forget, penned the Sins Past embarrassment in Spider-Man where Gwen Stacy was alleged to have had sex with Norman Osborn, and later gave birth to 2 children who grew up pretty fast. And who made Mary Jane Watson out to look like a liar who'd withheld information from Peter Parker. Yeah, some living, breathing world alright, replete with 3D characters. I've never bought the defense Joe Quesada mandated the whole story - certainly not 100 percent - given Straczynski never bolted from the writer's helm when the getting was good. Some "success" they had there alright. Yet this does hint Straczynski's relations with Quesada and Alonso alike were far better than previously claimed - why else would he join the latter in this new venture? If Quesada joins them next, that'll confirm everything.
Straczynski is one of a number of creators on what you’re calling the creative council, which is setting the tone for the shared universe. As it stands, the council has an interesting balance of talents — even among the writers, there’s a notable variety of opinions and output; no one is likely to mistake a Garth Ennis story for a Reginald Hudlin story, for example. Beyond that, though, there’s also Frank Cho, who’s an artist, as well as a writer. How did you decide on this particular group of people to shepherd the shared universe?

Variety was exactly the point. AWA’s creative council is six creators, each of whom has a significant footprint in comics and has achieved significant success in other fields: film, TV, animation, video games, novels, YA lit. [The six creators are Straczynski, Hudlin, Ennis, Cho, Gregg Hurwitz and Margaret Stohl.] All six are distinct voices. All six love comics and are here to stay. None of them are tourists. In fact, Joe Straczynski un-retired from comics to be a part of this.
Very interesting! Considering he didn't bring much to the table when he was working with Marvel, nor did he do much significant when he'd worked briefly on Superman for DC, his return to comics as of now sure is asking a lot from an audience he never really respected. And none of them are taking a comics writing tourism trip? I thought Hudlin was a screenwriter, much like Straczynski. Though I know JMS might've written a handful of comics early in his showbiz career, if they didn't begin in comics proper (although JMS did work in animation early in his career), and don't make it their full-time career, I can't consider that non-tourism.

The interview does note The Resistance is supposed to focus on a pandemic, at a time when Coronavirus has become such a serious issue around the world:
Were there surprises in terms of immediately agreed-upon elements? Were there things that everyone just knew instinctively, without having to really discuss it?

We wanted to create an easy on-ramp into our universe, a simple origin story that would allow for the creation of a new superhuman species that spanned the globe. We wanted these characters to be linked to one another the same way that mutants are in the Marvel Universe. In our universe, if you were transformed by the event that is chronicled in The Resistance No. 1, the pandemic known as the Great Death, it doesn’t matter where you’re from — Iowa, Africa or Japan — you are what’s called a “reborn.” You have brothers and sisters around the world with whom you share a profound bond. You grapple with the same existential questions and maybe daily dangers.

You mentioned it there and there’s no way not to ask about it: The Resistance is a story about a pandemic and the effect it has on the world. That’s, shall we say, an accidentally far more timely book than it was a couple months ago — is there any nervousness surrounding releasing this right now, especially as the launch book for the shared universe?

When we were planning the birth of our universe, the event that would result in the creation of a new superhuman species, Joe Straczynski suggested the inciting event be a global pandemic, and it just felt right.

Long before the coronavirus outbreak, there was widespread anxiety about the emergence of a super-virus — it was in the zeitgeist — so we thought it made sense to lean into that very real fear
. That said, there are at least two major differences between our virus, XV1N1, and the cornavirus: XV1N1 is catastrophically contagious and lethal and, of course, one of its side effects is the birth of a new superhuman species.
I'll grant them this: it's certainly impressive on the surface that they'd tackle an issue that's now got a variation in real life. But what if it's laced with a liberal viewpoint that considers right-wingers like Donald Trump guilty of leading to the pandemic? I've been aware of Straczynski's politics for years, and wouldn't put it past him if he made the villains in the story conservative cliches.

That said, whether or not the Resistance reflects real life as it's unfolded now, chances are very few others in comicdom will actually take up the challenge of writing stories inspired by the Coronavirus crisis, and if they do, they'll probably write it from a left-wing perspective. They're certainly too occupied with social justice ideology right now to do much informative.
I was wondering how — if at all — your Marvel experience played into AWA. Obviously, you’re chief creative officer at this company, so the positions aren’t exactly comparable, but what lessons did you learn from your experience at Marvel that you can apply to AWA, and specifically, the shared universe? Are there obvious no-nos that you’ve learned through bitter experience, or for that matter, any go-to, never-fail replicable success strategies?

I’d say the biggest strategy for success is to tell stories that reflect what people care about today and to resist the temptation to put genies back in the bottle just because you can. The stakes need to be real. Readers need to experience triumph and tragedy, love and loss, the way they do in real life. Some things – like death – need to be permanent.
Ugh, I have got so tired of hearing the belief that death in science fantasy must be permanent. No matter how you look at it, that's exactly what's brought down Marvel and DC alike, when we're told dead characters must remain dead, no matter how artistically offensive and bankrupt the story built around the dead characters is. If that's what Alonso's gotten into this new venture for, it sounds more like he'll be going by editorial mandates not all that different from the Big Two, as seen at the time Quesada and Dan DiDio were the main editors. If readers want to experience what he cites, that's their decision to make with their wallets. But if the readers want to experience escapist entertainment that isn't lecturing like what Alonso's doing, they have every right to it. In fairness, I wonder if that's what Frank Cho's joined them for. But if not, I don't see the point of a shared universe where escapist fantasy can't be part of the mix.

Besides, there are Marvel fans out there who haven't forgotten Alonso and JMS slighted the Marvel universe, and who're bound to avoid AWA's offerings no matter the content or quality of the finished product.

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Thursday, April 02, 2020 

More signs all may not be well for Diamond distribution

According to this Hollywood Reporter item, Diamond's holding back payments:
Should Diamond Comics Distributors fail, the impact it could have on the industry would be catastrophic.

The fallout of the comic book industry shutdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic continues with the news that Diamond Comics Distributors will be withholding payments this week in the light of cash flow problems.

"The unfortunate truth is that we are no longer receiving consistent payments from our customers," Stan Heidmann, president of Diamond parent company Geppi Family Enterprises, explained in a letter to venders, which include comics publishers and pop culture manufacturers of toys. "This requires that at this time, we hold payments to vendors previously scheduled to release this week. This is a difficult decision and not one we make lightly.”
The impact wouldn't be such a fiasco if, for the millionth time, the industry were to change from pamphlets to whole paperback and hardcover formats, if that's what'll persuade ordinary distributors to handle their shipments, but so long as they won't make a public statement about it, we can't assume they're actually considering it. The article also mentions something DC was going to do during the pandemic:
In its statement to retailers this weekend, DC suggested that it was already looking at alternative distribution possibilities, although it’s unclear if that was intended as a short-term option during Diamond’s temporary shutdown, or something more lasting.
It says they're going to make all their books over the next few months returnable. Not good enough. They have to be made always returnable, as I'd argued before. Mainly if any bad projects left over from the DiDio era remain on the slate, and are so awful nobody'll want to buy them. For example, any crossovers they had planned for this year, which we could do without, and left no artistic impact. It'll be interesting to see what effect the Coronavirus shutdown has on crossovers, because at a time when a lot of people are unable to work, it's certainly not like they can afford massive crossovers.

The crisis is bound to have some effect on the industry as a whole, and it remains to be seen how it'll affect Diamond by the end of the year.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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