Category Archives: Spotlight

Around the DC Universe: Titans Debuts

Welcome once again to Graphic Policy’s regular roundup of the best, the worst and the goofiest content on DC Universe, the premier subscription service for all things from DC Entertainment.

Originals

A new heading gets added to the feature this week with the much anticipated debut of Titans, the first DC Universe exclusive original series. Early reactions to the series’ teaser material was decidedly mixed with many fans decrying what appeared to be it’s dark and gritty tone and the open use of profanity, especially when associated with a franchise with many younger fans thanks to the animated series Teen Titans (also available on DC Universe) and Teen Titans Go!

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed the premier episode. The show is indeed dark and gritty but the tone works really well to provide a fresh take on thirty year old material that has been adapted several times before.

In this iteration Titans is very much an examination of young people coping with trauma, a theme that is all too relevant in the wake of #metoo and a generation of young veterans suffering from PTSD. Raven (played by Tegan Croft) is the real standout of the show and much of what occurs is seen from her viewpoint, something that makes the tone very apropos. I was a little worried that they were going to draw Dick Grayson too far towards the rendition from All Star Batman and Robin but Brenton Thwaites retains an essential likeability and vulnerability even while brutally wading into criminals with no quarter asked or given. “Fuck Batman” was a shocking and needlessly edgy line in the trailer but in the context in which it used it did work for me. I’d go so far as to say that this portrayal of the “boy” wonder might be the definitive live action one for a generation.

If there’s a flaw in the first episode it’s that Anna Diop’s Starfire is too far divorced from Robin and Raven’s plotline for much of the runtime. I get the feeling they were trying to make her mysterious but she came across as more of a distraction than anything else. Hopefully their paths will dovetail together next week. While I’m mostly over the idea of R (or in this case TV MA) rated superheroes I think it does work here.

One episode is not enough to justify $75 for a year’s subscription but if the rest of the season is as good or better a month or two to binge the entire thing will certainly be worth it.

Comics

I’ve been busy catching up on analog comics for the last two weeks so I haven’t spent as much time reading on DC Universe as usual. One title I did get to finish though was Hawk and Dove (2011) by artist Rob Liefeld, scripted for the first five issues by Sterling Gates and done solo by Liefeld for the last three. Hawk and Dove‘s cardinal sin isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that its boring. At no point in this run do we get a sense of the characters as anything other than generic super heroes. There’s nothing compelling here, no reason why we should care what happens to anyone. The story also seems to be a continuation of threads laid down in a previous series, an odd choice given that the New 52 was supposed to be a fresh start for all but the most successful DC titles. It’s not even worth it for Liefeld fans as his work here feels rushed and bland. It’s almost like he lost interest or ran out of time halfway through, producing  a forgettable story and a poor introduction to the characters.

A much better use of your time is the first six issues of All Star Western (2011) written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artwork by Moritat. Bringing Jonah Hex to Gotham City in the late nineteenth century was a stroke of brilliance and making his sidekick Amadeus Arkham makes for some great odd couple dynamics as the two try to solve a series of murders similar to the Jack the Ripper killings. The art (reminiscent of the french master Moebius) is in turns sexy, and disturbing and never less than brilliant. The only bad thing I can say about these comics is that there are not enough of them. All Star Western ran longer than any of the other New 52 launch titles without traditional superhero leads and only the first trade’s worth of material is available to read online with a DC Universe subscription. Hopefully more will be uploaded soon as these are some of the best comics produced by a major company in recent years and the series only gets better from here.

Bill Jemas Raises $5 Million for a New Comic Venture

Bill Jemas, former Marvel President, is returning to comics. He’s raised $5 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital firm. The new company is called Artists, Writers and Artisans, Inc.

Jemas was part of the team at Marvel which brought the MAX and Ultimate Marvel imprints to life as well as the Tsunami imprint which launched Runaways.

Jemas also had many failures including an attempt to relaunch the Epic Comics imprint. Double Take Comics, a comic imprint from Take Two Interactive, was started by Jemas and closed after just a few years.

Jemas also worked with smaller companies such as 360ep and Zenescope.

Artists, Writers and Artisans, Inc. is looking for an additional $2.5 million in funding, potentially from a TV network or movie studio. The new comic publisher will launch its first comic books in”2019 or later” according to Jemas.

It is rumored that former Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso will be the head editorial for the company.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cave Pictures Publishing’s Appalachian Apocalypse #1

At New York Comic Con, Cave Pictures Publishing announced their line up of “spiritually inclined” comics. The publisher looks to be filling a gap and deliver entertainment for a segment that comics hasn’t focused on unlike the film industry which has found success in movies of that nature.

We’ve got a reveal of the cover to Appalachian Apocalypse #1, one of the comics announced. Written by Billy Tucci with art by Ethan Nicolle, the comic is out January 16, 2019 and will retail for $3.99.

After the ancient staff of Lilith, mother of the damned, reanimates the dead, country boy J.B. and his estranged upper-crust wife Anne must come together to stop the zombie hordes and save the people of Appalachia.

The series is described as a “hilarious zombie romp like you’ve never seen before!”

Describing the series Ethan Nicolle said:

Appalachian Apocalypse sort of has a “Dukes of Hazard in a zombie Apocalypse” feel to it. It’s unapologetically American. I enjoy drawing zombies and this has got me drawing tons of them. It’s a very fun, fast-paced zombie adventure with a Tennessee twist.

And when it comes to working with Tucci, Nicolle added:

I’ve been a Billy Tucci fan since the ’90s when I subscribed to Wizard Magazine and he was constantly in the top ten artists in the industry. To be working with him is both thrilling and intimidating as an artist, but luckily he’s possibly the nicest guy in comics.

Tucci is a comic book and graphic novel illustrator and author best known for his creator-owned title and character Shi, now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Tucci penciled Heroes for Hire for Marvel Comics and produced DC Comics’ Sgt. Rock: The Last Battalion.

Nicolle is an American comic book creator, artist, and writer. He is best known for Bearmageddon and Axe Cop, a series he created with his younger brother, Malachai. Axe Cop won top prizes as a web-based comic at both the 2011 Shel Dorf Awards and the 2011 Eagle Awards. Nicolle was also nominated for the Best Humor Publication at the 2009 Eisners.

Demo-Graphics: Comic Fandom on Facebook – US Edition

Each month we run demographic data of comic “fans” based on data mined from Facebook.

This data is compiled using key terms, “likes,” users have as part of their profiles. Primarily terms are focused on generic ones such as “comics” or “graphic novels” or publishers. I stay away from specific characters, creators or series because this does not indicate they are a comic book fan. Over 100 terms are used for this report.

This data is important in that it shows who the potential comic audience could be. This is not purchasers, these are people who have shown an affinity for comics and are potential purchasers and those with an interest.

Also, with this being online/technology, due to laws and restrictions, those under the age of 13 are underrepresented.

Facebook Population: Over 73,000,000 in the United States

That’s an increase of 7 million from the previous month. Men and women each increased by 3 million individuals while those whose gender is not reported came in at 1 million..

The Spanish-speaking population last month was 12.73%, and this month the population has increased to 13.70%.

Gender and Age

Last month men accounted for 45.45% and women were 54.55%. This month Women account for 53.42% and men account for 45.21%. When looking at the data for ages men account for 46.39% and women are 53.88%. When it comes to relationship status men are 46.23% and women are 54.28%.

It’s been a full year since that women became the majority of fans. Things began to change in October when the universe was split 50/50 and they have continued to change since. These numbers tend to be ahead of noticeable changes in the industry we’ve seen an increase in the overall audience and dip so expect some gains and losses over months.

This month’s distribution of gender by age is similar to the previous months.

Relationship Status

The stats have relatively remained the same from the previous month when it comes to percentages. This is despite the larger overall population.

Education

And much like the relationship status, education remains relatively the same with a few changes here and there but most can be accounted for due to the larger overall population.

Ethnicity

African Americans and Hispanics each gained about one percentage point compared to the previous month. Asian Americans also saw an increased of about a quarter of a percent.

 

 

And that wraps up this month’s data. We’ll be back on the 15th for our first look at the European data of the year!

The Girl Scouts Team with DC Super Hero Girls for a Chance to Win an Epic Adventure

Girl Scouts and DC Super Hero Girls are teaming up to help young cookie entrepreneurs across the country. Participants will have a chance to win the Cookie Entrepreneur Experience of a lifetime featuring the DC Super Hero Girls, and meet prominent entrepreneurs, tour Warner Bros. Studios, and best of all, watch their inner super hero spread her wings and fly.

Twenty-four girls nationwide, four per Girl Scout grade level – will be selecte for the opporunity to:

Travel to sunny southern California for an all-expenses paid Cookie Entrepreneur Experience

  • Go on an incredible behind-the-scenes VIP adventure at Warner Bros. Studios
  • Take part in super-cool activities featuring the DC Super Hero Girls™
  • Meet successful entrepreneurs and business leaders
  • Attend a very special Girl Scout Cookie Pro recognition event
  • And more!

The Girl Scout Cookie program is an entrepreneurial program that helps young girls gain life skills such as “Goal Setting,” “Decision Making,” “Money Management,” “People Skills,” and “Business Ethics.” It’s a fundraising program where 100% of the net revenue raised stays with the local council and troops. They can use money earned to fund a project that improves their community or date the money to a worthy cause.

Details on how to enter will be released in January 2019. The contest runs from January 2 through April 30, 2019!

NYCC 2018: Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Talks Comic Conventions and Politics

Conventions are becoming a regular location for folks to get political. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con saw numerous groups registering voters. So, how odd would it to see a Presidential candidate at one? New York Comic Con had a visit from 2020 Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a first.

Andrew’s platform is centered around the idea of providing a “Freedom Dividend” – a form of universal basic income (UBI) – to every American adult. It’s a concept that’s been seen in pop culture like Star Trek and The Expanse.

Andrew has been endorsed by technology futurists like Y Combinator founder, Sam Altman, as well as labor leaders like former head of the SEIU, Andy Stern.

He’s a big sci-fi and comics fan (particularly of Star Trek and the Marvel Universe) and is heading to the convention this week to meet the attendees and build support.

Listen in and find out what it’s like to campaign at a comic convention and what we can learn from comics.

You can learn more at Yang 2020.

Around the DC Universe: What to Check Out this Week in Movies, TV, and Comics!

Welcome back to Around the DC Universe Graphic Policy’s regular examination of the best and worst content on DC Entertainment’s premier streaming service.

Special Features

For the next few weeks DC Universe will be expanding their selection of issues from the original run of The New Teen Titans (1980) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the lead up to the premier of the Titans TV series (the first episode drops October 12th). DC is being cagey about how long issues will remain on the service so my recommendation is to read them as soon as possible because they are really good. Wolfman’s writing, while somewhat dated, holds up better than any of his contemporaries (with the possible exception of Chris Claremont) and Perez’s art improves with every issue reaching towards the pinnacle of his artistic achievement. It’s one of the best books of its era and a masterclass in the form that today’s creators can still draw upon for inspiration. Of particular note is issue #8 (“A Day in the Life”) a nice character piece that fleshes out the series three original creations (Starfire, Cyborg and Raven) and brings them closer to the characters we’ve come to know and love.

Movies and TV

Last week I warned you away from Superman: Doomsday and now I am happy to report that this year’s The Death of Superman is a much more successful adaptation of the original source material (which is still available to read). I love how the creators tied the escalation of the Lois and Clark romance into the fight between Superman and Doomsday. When Lois tells Clark that she loves him for the first time right before he sacrifices himself to save her and Metropolis I was moved to tears. The buildup to the climactic battle is great and the fight itself is even more epic than the one captured in the comics due to better staging and the fact that they used a much more iconic Justice League to really drive home how much of a threat Doomsday really was. The funeral sequence feels a little protracted but it is a nice coda and serves to really whet the appetite for Reign of the Supermen set to be released next year.

I know I’m a bit late to the party here but with the long awaited third season promised to drop soon I decided that it was past time to catch up on Young Justice. I really enjoy how they handle the broader DC Universe, pulling in odd little deep cuts here and there. They are fun easter eggs if you’re familiar with what’s being referenced but not completely confusing if you don’t.  If I have one criticism it’s that in the early episodes they tend to focus on obscure D-list villains in favor of more potent antagonists but this problem seems to be resolving about half way through the series with appearances by Lex Luthor, Ras Al Ghul and the Joker.  

Comics

Green Arrow is a really difficult character to get right. Thus far the best presentation I’ve seen is The CW’s Arrow  but Kevin Smith’s 2000 comic book run is a close second. In Quiver, Oliver Queen returns from the dead with amnesia. He believes that he’s just back from some hard travel with his friend Green Lantern Hal Jordan but years have passed and the world has changed. Regardless of what you may think of his movies Smith knows how to write comics well: his sense of action is flawless and his dialog pithy and on point. Phil Hester’s art is hit or miss for me but his simple sense of style works well here and is a nice complement to Smith’s wordplay. I can’t unequivocally recommend this book since there is some non-explicit sexual situations involving a young girl that some might find triggering (especially given recent events) and a supporting character who is pretending to be a fairly cringeworthy trope but if these are not deal breakers for you the storytelling is of a quality that it is worth reading. Available on DC Universe in Green Arrow (2000-) #1-10.

If you are looking for something a bit more modern there are several arcs available from Geoff Johns’ 2007 Action Comics run with Superman director Richard Donner. In Escape From Bizarro World (with artist Eric Powell) Superman must save Pa Kent from his imperfect clone and a planet full of his offspring (including a Bizarro Justice League). Braniac (with artist Gary Frank) tells the story of the first true confrontation between Superman and one of his arch foes, the evil alien mastermind from the planet Colu. While Johns’ brand of decompressed storytelling isn’t for everyone, this is a case where it works fairly well. It’s an interesting run as the writers seem to be intent on adding elements of both the pre-Crisis comics continuity and the Christopher Reeve Superman films into the stripped-down framework previously established by John Byrne in his 1987 reboot. These stories actually read better taken outside the context of the character’s broader continuity adrift  as they are adrift between major periods of the Superman canon. The tone of Braniac may also feel familiar to those who are following Mark Andreyko and Kevin Maguire’s current run on Supergirl making for interesting comparisons between the two. Available on DC Universe in Action Comics (1938-) #855-857 and #866-870.

Veterans Affairs Stonewalls Congress Protecting Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter

Officials at Veterans Affairs are declining to give members of Congress documents related to the influence Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter has over the agency.

The issue is the influence that Perlmutter, primary care specialist Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, and attorney Marc Sherman have over veterans policy decisions by the Trump administration. None of the men hold government positions. All three are confidants of Trump and members of his Mar-a-Lago resort.

ProPublica ran a report in August that showed frequent contact between the men and top VA officials that included policy matters and personal favors.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has told lawmakers he met with the trio only once during a courtesy trip and they have had no role in crafting department policy. However, when House Democrats requested correspondence between the men and the VA in August, Wilkie refused. He cited “ongoing litigation alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act” making them “not appropriate for release at this time.”

That has to do with a lawsuit filed by VoteVets to block the trio from further contact with VA leadership concerning official matters.

Top ranking Democrat on the veterans’ House panel, Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz said Wilkie’s excuse was “unacceptable” and without legal merit.

Walz said:

We have received nothing from VA except excuses. The reports of corruption and cronyism are serious and we cannot allow VA to sweep this under the rug. This issue will remain a top concern of the committee until all our questions have been answered.

Walz has demanded that the documents are turned over by the end of the month.

NYCC 2018: Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Meets Convention Goers

Conventions are becoming a regular location for folks to get political. San Diego Comic-Con saw numerous groups registering voters. Congressman John Lewis has been to numerous conventions to promote his graphic novel March. New York Comic Con is getting a visit from 2020 Presidential candidate Andrew Yang who will be located at booth #2010

Andrew’s Platformis centered around the idea of providing a “Freedom Dividend” – a form of universal basic income (UBI) – to every American adult. It’s a concept that’s been seen in pop culture like Star Trek and The Expanse.

Andrew has been endorsed by technology futurists like Y Combinator founder, Sam Altman, as well as labor leaders like former head of the SEIU, Andy Stern.

Andrew is a big sci-fi and comics fan (particularly of Star Trek and the Marvel Universe) and is heading to the convention this week to meet the attendees and build support.

Around the DC Universe: Week 2 – A Superman Focused Week

Welcome to Around the DC Universe, your weekly guide to the best comics and shows featured on DC Entertainment’s exclusive new streaming service.

Technical Issues

I begin this week with technical issues because after almost two weeks of playing with the app I have finally figured out how DC Universe deals with the release of new comics.

Most of the titles are part of the curated library, a selection of 2500 or so issues that will swap out quarterly (though I imagine that a few key issues like Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27 will remain in perpetuity). Special features will be added weekly for shorter runs usually of a week or two.

Special Features

Right now you have three weeks to check out the original Death and Return of Superman  in Action Comics (1938-), Adventures of Superman, Superman: The Man of Steel and Superman (1986). This epic event stands at the crossroads between marketing gimmick and heartfelt storytelling. The writers and artists involved have a deep and abiding affection for the Man of Steel that shines through the hype as they take him as low as a person can go and then bring him back. Superman’s supporting cast, one of the best in the history of comics, really gets a chance to shine in the absence of the series’ main character and there are several moments that still move me to tears. Unfortunately, as of this writing DC Universe is missing several key issues including Superman (1986) #78 and 79 which introduce the infamous Cyborg Superman. It’s possible to enjoy the story despite this gap but it is disappointing that DC could not be bothered to correct their mistake despite several queries on the community forums and at least one query to their customer service department which received no response. Even if you have read the story before be sure and check out Newstime: The Life and Death of Superman (1993). Originally published as a facsimile of a tribute magazine, this is a great artifact from within the DC Universe that offers some interesting perspectives and more than a few easter eggs and has  never, to my knowledge, been reprinted.

Movies and TV

Those who don’t have time to wade through all those comics might find themselves tempted two different animated versions available on the video streaming portion of DC Universe. Sadly the older of the two (Superman: Doomsday) is an inferior adaptation. The original story took up almost a year’s worth of four monthly titles so trying to condense it into a mere hour and forty five minutes is impossible. A lot of questionable creative choices were also made, including a Superman who is perfectly willing to engage in intimate relations with Lois Lane without telling her his secret identity. The generally mean characterization of many of the characters involved robs the feature of all of its poignancy. A double feature of Batman v Superman and Justice League does the original material more credit and is infinitely more preferable to this waste of good talent. I’ve yet to watch this year’s The Death of Superman but it’s on my agenda for next week.

On the other side of the Superman coin I’m surprised by how much I enjoy watching George Reeves in the Adventures of Superman TV show. While it’s very much a product of its time, it’s still incredibly fun to watch in small doses. Reeves is inherently likable as both Superman and Clark Kent has the inherent likeability and the supporting cast is also top notch. There are some interesting wrinkles added to the legend. I particularly liked watching Pa Kent risking his life to save Baby Kal El from the blazing wreckage of his rocket after it crashes to work. The plots are much more down to Earth than we’re used to with Superman taking on smugglers and bank robbers instead of alien despots and mad scientists.  That’s not a bad thing however as it reminds us that Superman was once a much more relatable, down to Earth character, not so much in his power level but in his concerns. It’s fun to revisit that simpler time even if only for a couple of episodes.

Comics

The Legion of Superheroes is one  of my all time favorite teams. The long running drama of a club of teenage heroes in the far future is in turns both goofy and profound with a tangled continuity that makes the X-Men look simple by comparison. If you’ve never experienced the Legion many of their earliest stories are currently available in Adventure Comics. DC Universe has taken a greatest hits sort of approach with some of the best stories from the first few years of the Legion’s run, many of them by science fiction legend Ed Hamilton. Reading the stories as they’re presented does sacrifice the development of on a rich and compelling continuity but these high points, including the death of one of the major players in Legion history, is well worth your time if you’re a fan of DC’s silver age. Adventure Comics was an anthology title that also featured stories about of other heroes and they are included here as as well. Fans of Aquaman  should take note of superior stories in the first two issues with art by the great Ramona Fradon, one of the first women to draw a superhero comic. Available on DC Universe in Adventure Comics (1938-) #247, 267, 300, 304, 306, 310, 312, and 316.

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