Thursday, October 6, 2011

DC Comics the New 52 – Part 3


The first two of the New 52 I reviewed, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 and Catwoman #1 were suggested by JayJay, because they were generating the most discussion online.

I tried to confine my analysis to Comics 101 basics, how the efforts compared to DC’s stated goals and how well each succeeded at what, in particular, they seemed to be trying to do. A lot of the discussion about those books both here and elsewhere online seems to be about the depiction and behavior of the female characters. I didn’t weigh in there. To me, that’s an evaluation each reader has to make for him or herself, not one I am more qualified than any other individual to pontificate about. One person’s Good Girl Art is another person’s “demeaning to women.” Etc.

The publisher has the right to publish any non-actionable material it wishes. Then we get to pick. The DC brass apparently thought the content of the two books I reviewed served their goals or would appeal to a large enough segment of the market to be worth doing. Whatever.

For many reasons having nothing to do with the controversies over the depiction and behavior of the female characters, I found a lot wrong with Red Hood and Catwoman.

But, let it be known, personally, I didn’t like the way the female characters were portrayed. It’s not that I think that there is anything, any situation or any type of character, male or female, that cannot be done if it is done with rare excellence and surpassing skill. The problem is that, too often, comic book writers and artists who belong in creator kindergarten think they’re already Ph.D’s.

Anyway….

My thanks to those of you who suggested better New 52 efforts to check out. That narrowed the search a lot. Some of the ones I didn’t pick had merit, but I went with one of the characters I loved when I was a kid.
Batman #1

The cover:

First Version: The logo is too clever by half. The texture on the stylized Batman symbol serves no purpose. What’s it there for? It’s distracting and adds nothing. I believe that it’s Photoshop masturbation. The good news is that you can do wonderful things with images these days. The bad news is that artists do things because they can, and for no other reason.

The Batman symbol is all but lost against the battleship camouflage background anyway. The halo around it helps a little. Not enough.

Even though the background varies in value, the yellow-white letters spelling out Batman pop, because they’re very light and bright and the background, including the Batman symbol, is dark enough. The problem is that the letters themselves are harder to read than they have to be. Yes, you can pretty quickly understand what they’re spelling out here, but what’s going to happen when some element overlaps the logo?

As for the image, it too, is a little harder to “read” than it has to be. Okay, I see Batman, and he’s surrounded by figures. But, honestly, it took a few seconds of staring to realize that Batman is being swarmed by these figures. It was when I focused on the figure on the left who’s lunging at Batman—the one bearing Greg Capullo’s signature—and also noticed the figure below him holding onto Batman’s leg that I grokked.

Bad choice for a place to sign, Greg. Intrusive. Distracting.

We see mainly the tops of the heads of four of the figures, including the scaly guy foreground. My God, I just sorted out that one of the odd shapes I see is actually Batman’s left leg. He’s shoving away the guy with the question mark hairdo with his foot.

P.S., it took me a few seconds to realize that was a question mark. Aha! So, comics-savvy me has a sudden revelation…! He must be the Riddler! I start trying to pick out details amid the tangle of gray shapes that might give me a clue who the others are.

Suddenly, it hits me—that big, black shape that stretches up to the top of the cover is Batman’s cape! I guess it has holes in it…or is that dirt and smoke in front of the part close to his body, or…?

I have a couple of words for you Greg Capullo: Silhouette and dynamics. Also, the term Tipped Line of Balance. Give your characters discoverable indications of movement. Demonstrate the vector of the action. Like you did with the guy you signed.

Make it read. Make it work. Clear at a glance, unless there is a storytelling reason to be mysterious or obscure.

I met you at a con in Toronto, right? Long ago. Looks like you’re doing all right for yourself. Good for you.

This is a very gray cover. I wonder what the fascination these days with gray comes from. I suppose, however, if you’re going to have a gray cover, Batman is the right book.

This cover isn’t terrible. Pretty good, actually. It’s just not all that it could be.
Second version: Told you so. The logo is really hard to read, now. It’s not as if it’s a long established logo like Cosmopolitan, for instance, or GQ. See just a bit of those familiar logos and your brain fills in the rest automatically. This is a new logo.

Fortunately, we have a big, prominent figure of Batman front and center, which serves as a clue.

A big, misshapen figure. The arms don’t look like they belong to, or are attached to the body. Batman is a handsome guy. This fellow isn’t. The whole cover is jumbled, cluttered, confusing and unappealing. The obligatory variant. If you’re going to prey upon those of us who like to have the complete set, DC, can’t you at least make each variant good?
Third version: I actually like it better without color, though most of the same comments as before still apply.

The interior:
Splash page: Three moody shots featuring architecture, for the most part.

One thing the Batman filmmakers got right is that Gotham City is a co-star. Writer Scott Snyder and penciler Greg Capullo got it right, too.

The art and the copy are intriguing. Nice work, guys.

The page two-three spread is good. Striking. A throng of weird, nasty-looking types is obviously confronting Batman. If I don’t think about it, and turn the page, it’s cool.

But this is me we’re dealing with….

The worm’s eye POV is groovy. But it’s framed, in part, by a black shape that gives me pause. The black shape—whoops, there’s a little hint of gray (what else?) at the top—trails, it seems, onto the floor, so it’s not the eyehole of a mask. Besides, if Batman were lying on the floor, why would the throng confronting him be looking up…? And left! Eureka! Batman is standing mostly off panel to the left, and the black thing…must be his cape!

God, I hope he doesn’t trip on the damn thing.

There’s an inset. Usually I don’t like insets because usually they’re idiotically placed. This one isn’t covering anything important. It still confuses me a little. The pointy bit on top I read right away as Batman’s nose, but I had trouble sorting out the mouth below it. I think the colorist did too.
Turn the page….

And there’s Batman. Stylized, wearing a slightly different costume than I’m used to—but the movies and comics have mucked with the costume frequently, so what else is new. Besides, cape, cowl, bat symbol, gray and/or black…. It’s Batman, all right. 
A very good fight scene starts, during which, succinctly, elegantly, Snyder gives us a heads up about who these weird bad guys are. It’s all we need to operate. Sweet.

Though he isn’t named, I recognize Clayface, which makes me feel very smart and in the know. New Reader me wouldn’t have known, but the fact that he’s a gloppy, monstrous guy who seems to be made of mud would have been sufficient for me to accept that Batman can kick a hole in him, no worries.

The point is, I get the drift. A bunch of weird-to-bizarre criminals who are familiar to Batman are attacking him. If Batman is comfortable with that reality, so am I.

Page six starts with…what? I have no idea what I’m looking at in panel one.
Panel two, that seems to be Batman in a new locale. New Reader me had no clue where the last locale was, though savvy-me whispered “Arkham Asylum” in my own mind’s ear.

I suss out that Batman was knocked or thrown through a window. Maybe. It could be that this is still an interior location. I don’t know. What are those things with the chains? Prison bunks? Can this be a prison cell? It had a breakable glass window big enough for a man to be thrown through, though. Oh, I don’t know.

Savvy me registers that there is a panel three, and that it’s a close up of Batman’s eyes. New Reader me misses it and doesn’t miss it. It’s just meaningless shapes….

Panel four, here come the bad guys.

Panel five, I don’t know. Black page background, no gutters, black shapes running into each other…. I don’t know what I’m looking at.

Don’t you artists realize that when the shapes run together like that we, the readers, who don’t have you around to explain it, first see all the shapes that run together as one big shape. Then we realize that can’t be right. Then, thirty seconds into it, if we haven’t thrown the damn book away, we finally grok that part of the big black shape is someone sneaking up on Batman, part of it is a cropped close up of Batman’s head with a fingers pulling on one of his Bat-ears, and…wait! There are some squiggles back in the sneaking up part that could be the hair of the sneaker-upper!

Then, last panel on the page, which both underlies and overlaps its predecessors, which doesn’t help, we get a look at the sneaker-upper. Due to the untimely death of Heath Ledger more New Reader/civilians have a shot at knowing it’s the Joker than would otherwise.

Good. Otherwise, figuring out this page was hard work.

And so it goes. I’m going to stop criticizing the artistic idiocies, sorry, Greg, or you guys are going to think I don’t like this book.

No, I love it.

So much of the art is so good that I spent the 30 seconds sorting out the big, black shape and didn’t mind too much.
The artistic madness continues in spots here and there. But by and large, Greg delivers the story effectively and with excellence. Even when it’s tricky, like when the E.M.P. mask is explained, or the remote computer connection to the Batcave is demonstrated.
And the writing? Snyder is good. His writing is clear, clean and compact. He’s clever, in the best sense. Everything is explained elegantly in an unburdensome way. There is drama, intrigue, suspense. The action is well written.

Best of all, I recognize these people. Snyder seamlessly blends whatever new there is in the New 52 iteration of Batman with enough of what I already know and cherish. It’s all good.
My theory of how to reinvent a character is this: Ask 1,000 people to tell you what they know about the character. If nearly all of them say, as they might in this case, Batcave, Batmobile, Robin, that butler guy…then make awful damn sure that you keep the Batcave, the Batmobile, Robin and Jarvis.  Oops.  Alfred.

Anything not mentioned by a substantial majority is fair game to muck around with. Ignore that weird guy who mentioned Bat-Mite.

After a while, once you get the hang of it, you don’t need to ask anyone anymore.

Snyder rocks the house.

My only complaint is that this issue is just the first act. I wish there were more of the story. Not that I wish what is presented here was different. I wish the book was longer.

Clearly, Snyder knows the fundamental continued story techniques, which I will explain here soon, or he is welcome to.

I’m impressed.

So, two thumbs up with one small admonishment to you, Greg. When you finally home in all of your devastating firepower on the target, which is telling the story and telling it well, and stop occasionally succumbing to windage and firing useless rounds into artsy-fartsy land, you will be king.

Not the King. Only one of him. But king, indeed.


NEXT:  New 52 General Conclusions and the Secret Origin of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe









72 comments:

William said...

Thanks Jim. I may have to check this one out.

Anonymous said...

Imagine how much better these covers and pages would look with more sparring use of gradient colors. Not everyone is Lynn Varley; I think all of this complicated Photoshop layering/blending is gilding the lily of the inker's work.

Love this blog.

-Randy

Chris Arndt said...

All in all though I still hate the cuts on Joker's face.

Gary said...

You know what Jim... reading your blog (and agreeing with comments) has made me want to check this book out now. Although I'll probably wait for a trade paper back.

Keep it coming Jim! Your blog may well be the best part of my day!!

Jim said...

Hi Jim,

Great review! Batman #1 was my favorite of the New 52, even though I quit reading Batman quite a while back because of the storytelling. Most of the New 52 books read like the creative teams are just churning something out while looking for another job, although some are still entertaining.
Another book I really enjoyed was George Perez's Superman. It had a lot going on especially compared to all the slow paced stories that seem to be written for collecting into trade, but I read one review that pointed out that it never introduces Clark Kent as Superman. That doesn't bother me, but it sure doesn't do its job for new readers. Action Comics #1 had some really good energy to it, but I didn't adore it the way many folks did. I'd really like to see your take on the new Action Comics #1 and/or Superman #1.

JimB

cesare said...

Wait, what? General Conclusions? You HAVE to do more of these. I was thrilled that you picked Batman #1, I really enjoyed it, but I had the same issues you pointed out with some of the artwork (Which makes me feel like I know SOMETHING about the medium)

Anywho, I'll be watching this spot for more invaluable insight into the how to's of comic creation.

Thanks Jim!


Cesare

Jerry Novick said...

This was a good comic book. Snyder definitely has the writing chops. If only he (or editorial mandate?) could resist the bit of decompression that seeps in. Still, compared to most of the decompressed story telling we see these days, this is a veritable meaty novel.

Ralf Haring said...

The ones I'd most like to see you discus are Action Comics, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim,

I didn't read this one, but Detective Comics #1 did read both as a self contained issue and the first part of a larger story-arc. Also, even if i could have done without a few gore details,it was pretty awesome, rich in story and had awesome art.

St├ęphane Garrelie.

Slentz said...

Great reviews...I find myself being more critical of the books I picked up yesterday. Last weeks FF was a bit disappointing when I look at it with a critical eye.

I've been flipping through the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe issues lately. I really enjoy all the "science" that was put into these books. I look forward to hearing more about them.

JediJones said...

JimB, Superman #1 definitely had the old school feel with smaller panels and lots of dialogue and narration all over the pages. It made me wonder if people who only became comics readers in recent years would find it unbearable. I read a review from a younger person of John Byrne's Man of Steel recently. He said he liked it but in the "typical" style of older comics it was "too wordy." I enjoyed reading Superman #1 though. It had a good soap opera feel to it with a large cast of well-defined characters having a lot of interplay with each other.

Action Comics #1 just didn't leave me with anything to get excited about. It was well-executed as a piece of storytelling but the character that was apparently supposed to be Superman was unrecognizable to me. He leaped like the Hulk, he fought mobsters in a corrupt city by using violent threats like Batman and he ungracefully shuffled in and out of his secret identity like Spider-Man. It felt like a reboot meant to completely change the character. I would have assumed DC had decided to do a "post-Siegel-and-Shuster-lawsuit" Superman except the character in Superman #1 seemed more authentic. This felt like a Marvel Ultimates series that was trying to be different for the sake of being different. In doing so, it removed most of what it is that makes Superman a fun and unique character.

Aquaman #1 is I think a really interesting one to look at. To me it makes a good argument for "decompression" and modern computer coloring. There wasn't a meaty plot but there was an uninterrupted stream of beautifully rendered, well-developed scenes. The dialogue actually had a sense of humor, a rarity in these grim-and-gritty days of comics. Thought bubbles were basically unnecessary because the facial expressions and close-ups were delineated so well. The colors were mostly bright and beautiful, nothing gray and dingy. They breathed life and depth into the artwork in ways that couldn't have been done 20 years ago. The panels were on the larger side, contributing to a slower pace, but they had clarity and organization to them. And although less dense than something like Superman #1, there is a real story there, with understandable character motivation and the introduction of some points of conflict.

The panels were mostly rectangular which gave the book a widescreen, cinematic feel. It made the case that rectangles work better than squares for visual storytelling, as some filmmakers believe. Maybe that's because human eyes are side-by-side rather than on top of each other, and thus a rectangle matches our natural field of vision better? Whatever it was that made it work, Aquaman #1 was one of the most visually breathtaking comics I've ever seen. Pretty much every bit of artwork worked as storytelling and looked great at the same time.

Anonymous said...

@Slentz, I second that. OHOFTMU was the book I looked forward to the most each month back then, would love hear some backstory on that series.

Randy

Lee in Limbo said...

Excellent rundown. Also, looking forward to the next installment. I've started writing mini commentary on the books myself. Gonna be interesting to see how different our takes are.

Dusty. said...

Greg Capullo has always been a favorite of mine!

Hey, Jim, would love to see a future blog dedicated to all the Marvel movies and your opinion about them!

JediJones said...

Similarly, I'd like to see your top 5 or 10 list of all the comic book movies, Jim.

Derek B said...

Jim,

DC has a few writer/artists working on books right now and I think the jury is still out on how they are doing.

As the EIC when Byrne, Miller and Simonson began writing, could you maybe talk a little bit in the blog about what you saw in each of these gentlemen that led you to believe that they would be as effective at writing as they indeed turned out to be.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Red His Hoodlums.
Batman.
Legion of Super Heroes.

How many New 52 titles actually have some sort of crazy-gadget-tech disguise-over-a-costume effect as part of the plot?!?

Marvelman said...

Hi Jim. I'm following your reviews with great interest. It seems to me that you have chosen the most controversial of the lot for your reviews, so how about reviewing Action Comics #1 which I thought was well done. I get the impression you're not a big Grant Morrison fan, but I thought this issue was very accessible. Please let us know what you think.

Pierre Villeneuve said...

Damn YOU Jim!! You were supposed to review OMAC!! OMAC I said!! ;)

I knew I had been to subtle in my last post when I requested you review OMAC. ;)

But seriously.... It is always educational to read you blog.

Keep up the good job. Much appreciated.

JediJones; Yes Superman does have an Old School feel to it... which is always a good thing in my book.

But despite the fact that I should love the Superman comic. Despite the fact that I am one of those who will NOT find the Superman comic too wordy... I cannot enjoy that comic. I do not like the new Superman. I feel like I am reading the adventures of Superboy Prime. And I really don't like the new costume. I would almost say that I hate it.... but hate is a little too strong... so I will settle with I really don't like it.

Other then a few titles like OMAC.... I feel that the NEW DCnU really is not for me. :(

Jay Austin said...

I'd like to see a review of OMAC if only to hear Jim's thoughts on Keith's use of 2x3 / 3x3 / 3x4 paneling.

Cousin Vinny said...

Did I read that correctly? This particular Batman #1 has variant covers? I was right. The comics industry has little changed since the 1990's. Variant covers were one of the contributing factors to the comic book industry's huge collapse in the mid-1990's, and you'd think the comic book publishers would be the wiser from that experience.

(Don't worry, I will still read the comics I've just bought and will do an ad hoc review. Not that anyone would care...)

I had a realization about the general malaise that be affecting the comic book industry. One is that the comic book is a specific form of literature that has a sense of permanence; an open-ended form of writing, if you will. Allow me to illustrate.

Superman debuted in 1938. Hundreds of creative talents have come and went, imprinting their individual stamp on the iconic character, continuing to the present day. Nearly every conceivable angle has been covered with this character. There are 73 years of continuity to juggle around. Heck, even he may have died and been resurrected several times... Only in comics that this can happen. On a repeat basis.

Simply put, for the comics industry to thrive, Superman needs to leave, retire, stay dead, etc. The TV landscape is constantly changing; new shows continue to replace older ones. (Even the Simpsons are being threatened!)

It's time to treat comic books as graphic novels, that are closed-end forms of writing. They have a beginning, buildup, climax, and an end. New characters need to emerge, and they have an expiration date. This way, writers and artists can fully explore their creative talents instead of restraining themselves in the structures of continuity and character development.

Case in point, Marvel exploded on the scene in the early 1960's with a whole host of new, dynamic and exciting characters. And with it, captured a new generation of comic book readers. That same sense of adventure and dynamism needs to happen today. Reboots, retcons, relaunches, lipstick, Photoshop, etc. will inevitably fall short.

And now... getting off the soapbox. Looking forward to reading more stories about comics, the comic book industry, both new and old.

techberry said...

This particular issue you reviewed highlights a lack of consistency that is rampant within The New 52 reboot.

You showed us a panel of Bruce Wayne surrounded by his 'Robins'; Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Damian Wayne.

It drives me 'batty' that as a reader of many titles, I am supposed to accept that the prepubescent Dick Grayson shown in this panel is the same young "man" currently showcased in the Nightwing comic? Not buying it.

That the cherub of a lad Jason Todd shown here also the same Jason Todd shooting his way through Red Hood and the Outlaws? Not making that connection.

Only Damian seemed to fit his approximate age...

How hard is it to get these guys in a room and say, these are the characters, this is who they are, what they look like, and how they act. Nightwing as he is depicted in THIS book will be Nightwing as he is depicted in THAT book. And so on.

Also, the 'consistency' of Batman between different titles is all over the place. I have a hard time keeping him character because each title has its own vision of who he is...

Putting that aside, some of the best New 52 comics are not those that concern themselves with what is 'canon' and what is not, or how 'flashy' can my art get, but simply tell a great story.

Batwoman is everything that Batman is supposed to be, without the baggage.

Where the Superman reboot rang falsely to me, Wonder Woman was entertaining and left me wanting more.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. was an exciting adventure.

Flash, a somewhat stale and tired character, was made more interesting to me by how the artist depicted his costume coming out of his ring. To me it revolutionized how I envisioned Flash, simply because the creative team took some time to add some 'quality' and updated a feature of Flash that hadn't been touched since Carmine Infantino drew him.

I guess there is some good in the New 52. Just not where the hype is...

jimshooter said...

Dear Derek B,

The tale of Byrne, Miller and Simonson writing for Marvel is in the queue. Thanks.

JediJones said...

Cousin Vinny, cover variants seem pretty common now. A lot of comics have "incentive" covers that retailers get for every 10, 100, etc. copies they order. Dark Horse's Gold Key reboots had variant covers just on the first issues. John Byrne's Next Men has an incentive cover on every issue. IDW's G.I. Joe Real American Hero has two covers for every issue plus an incentive sketch cover.

I think your idea of making graphic novels the primary format is worth considering. It recently came up in another discussion that perhaps a larger quarterly trade paperback release schedule makes more sense in today's comic book market than a monthly title. I also like the idea that stories have more endings. On the other hand, there already are a lot of limited series and story arcs that then get collected in trade paperback form, so the same thing sort of happens in a roundabout way.

I really don't think getting rid of Superman makes any sense at all. Even 1960s Marvel brought back into its new continuity some of its major heroes from the golden age like Captain America. No company would or should get rid of a brand name that well-known and marketable.

I agree that new characters might be needed to appeal to exactly what the modern audience is looking for. But I don't think the existence of Superman impedes the creation of new characters. We've seen a lot of new characters get created in recent decades. This "Red Hood" guy for instance. They just don't seem to catch on with the public very often.

Harley Quinn's one of the big superhero character creation successes of the '90s, although she got her start in the Batman cartoon. She definitely shows how a new character that catches on can give a shot in the arm to the fans. The one new serial action-adventure character that did become a phenomenon in the past 15 years was created outside of comics, Harry Potter. So, maybe comics need to do more experimenting outside of the superhero genre to find a new audience.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

I think the logo is half-clever, half-ugly. Half-clever because the tops of the letters "BATMAN" roughly form the shape of the bottom of a bat's wings. Half-ugly because the letters are of varying sizes even though they are not in perspective (cf. Steranko's X-Men logo): e.g., the second "A" is half the size of the first! The vertical stroke on the left of the "B" is tilted even though all other vertical strokes aren't. I would have made the six letters the same size.

I'm surprised DC doesn't have a standardized Batman logo that is on Bat-everything -- something akin to the familiar Superman logo. Something even civilians might recognize.

An effective logo might be one that someone could more or less draw from memory. This Batman logo would be tougher than the X-Men logo even though it's flat.

The shadow behind the logo reminds me that this is a flat image -- if the logo were really suspended in air in front of these scene, it woudn't cast that type of shadow.

I wonder if it's normal for artists to sign so close to the focal point of an image these days.

Greg Capullo has come a long way since I last saw his work in 1992 when he was drawing X-Force in a Liefeldish style. (It was comics like those that led me to abandon the medium.)

The Ba-Man (sic!) cover is an overrendered mess. A swarm of bats is symbolically odd since Ba-Man, I mean, Batman operates alone or with a single partner. Since when are Batman's arms each half the width of his torso? Why have grotesquely muscular figures become the norm in comics? I prefer the realistic builds of the Good Guys and Star Seed. Batman's pose is very static. It reminds me of a packaged action figure. I cannot imagine that pose on the cover of an old Batman comic. Are the two people in the background characters in the story, or just random bad guys? Anyone know?

The coloring of the "DC Comics" and "The New 52!" logos doesn't pop against the green background.

Strong opening page!

Not so strong inset. I thought Batman's nose was the corner of a black wall in front of a damaged section of floor that was actually his lips! Floors don't talk, so the balloon clued me in.

I mistook the Joker's fingers for boots of some villain sitting atop Batman. I guess the idea was to intrigue the reader: "What's that strange shape? (Looks at panel 6.) Oh, it's the Joker's hand." I would have shown more of the hand since the mystery in that panel should be "Who does that hand belong to?" The hand should be clear; its possessor doesn't have to be. Showing Batman's left eye reacting to the Joker's fingers might have also helped clarify that panel.

If DC were serious about attracting -- and keeping -- new readers, they'd have editors going over these first 52 #1s with a careful eye for anything that would confuse civilians.

The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and the Deluxe Edition were my favorite Marvel titles. The former really helped me get up to speed on the Marvel line that I mostly knew through reprints of 60s stories. I kept waiting for the appendix of the Deluxe Edition, but alas ... Then years later, I found the unofficial online appendix. I am excited to read about the genesis of OHOTMU, my gateway to the Marvel galaxy. Was anyone surprised that a comic which really wasn't a comic but was actually packed with text in tiny print sold so well? (I'm assuming sales must have been good because of the Deluxe Edition and later followups.)

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Cousin Vinny,

Your comment resonated with me because I grew up with the Japanese tradition of finite stories. Even now, decades later, I'm not entirely used to the American superhero comic book model. As Paul Gravett wrote,

"Manga stay fresh and vibrant because they have to keep on finding new authors and winning over readers. Unlike in America, where Spider-Man or Superman are still wearing their underpants outside their trousers after forty, or sixty, years, in Japan not every successful series has to last forever. Manga engage you because they chart the lives and growth of characters and do actually come to a conclusion. It may take thousands of pages, but you can see genuine change going on, not just the 'illusion of change' found in most superhero soap operas."

What if this approach were combined with the immortal DC and Marvel characters? What if the DC and Marvel Universes were reborn, destroyed, and reborn again every few years? Each retelling would cover the life stories of the heroes, but with different twists, like an ultra-extended What If? To see an example of this approach, I recommed John Byrne's first Generations series covering the careers of Superman and Batman from 1929 to 1999 in a self-contained continuity. Its four issues are packed with changes. Marriages, births, deaths. Setups that pay off years later in the timeline.

Comic book superheroes began as improv. Make up whatever now. No long-term planning. Just put out product. Fast. Nobody knew Superman would last 73 years. Stan Lee was just intent on keeping Goodman's comics line going. He might not have been surprised if Fantastic Four didn't last four issues. Sometimes improv works. FF turned 50 this year. Sometimes it doesn't. Perhaps the improv model has run its course after seven decades.

Chris Tolworthy has a different proposal:

Merchandising demands that there are characters who do not change. But good story telling demands that actions have consequences, and that means characters DO change. So Marvel needs two universes. One version does not change. It has come to some final, ultimate form and stopped. Hey, that's a good name, you could call it the "ultimate" universe, fill it with young versions of the heroes, and start the numbering again at issue 1 every few years. Meanwhile, if you want your old stories to count for anything then you need the characters in those books to remember them. "Hey, Gwen Stacy died, didn't she. Hey, I really was married, wasn't I. Those were good times! Keep buying the book and we'll see what happens next!"

I highly recommend his site to fans of Marvel, Jim Shooter (whom he praises), and comics storytelling.

Dear techberry,

I too was surprised by how young Dick Grayson and Jason Todd looked in Batman. Such inconsistency benefits no one but creators who aren't coordinated with each other for whatever reason.

jimshooter said...

Dear techberry,

Excellent points. Thanks.

Richard Guion said...

Good article. I was also confused by that scene where Batman gets thrown out of a--window?--into the alley or other room, before he meets the Joker. I had to study it for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

That's not Jason Todd, guys. It's Tim Drake.

Defiant1 said...

Nothing about this interests me. The art alone is enough for me to pass.

Overly square faces.
Batman has no lips.
The Joker appears to have about 20 teeth exposed and none look like molar teeth.
The coloring...God!
What is the light source? Sunlight? Why is this a F#¢¥ing shade of orange you would not find in nature? Does the interior decorator have that much poor taste?
What are they standing on? Why do their shoes reflect on this orange floor. I actually want to go duplicate the light source and see if this is the correct reflection pattern. The coloring distracts me that much.

The arched back of (I assume) Bruce Wayne is particularly annoying. It looks like some attempt to instill a cool confidence, but it's not how people stand. I'm sick of heroes in comics walking around with poked out chests. Although Bruce's chest isn't poked out, he's arching his back in the same stupid manner.
I'll keep my money and spend it on paper clips or something equally interesting. Once the art is acceptable and non-intrusive to the reading experience, I'll consider actually reading a comic.

Defiant1 said...

I think a house style of art facilitates crossovers better and the building of a universe with depth. I'd like to see publishers enforce some kind of consistency with how characters are drawn.

jimshooter said...

Dear Defiant,

The art is cartoony, I'll give you that. I didn't get around to the coloring. It's bad.

Anonymous said...

[MikeAnon:] I took some time at the comic shop today to browse through most of the New 52 titles. Some I didn't bother with because I fully intend to buy them in trade format later (e.g., Green Lantern, Justice League, Action Comics, Animal Man, OMAC, Aquaman). But I glanced through whatever I could find of the rest. Of the other titles, I found these had piqued my interest:

Firestorm: While I find the racial overtones a little tiring, the scientific and cloak-and-dagger aspects of the story, along with the new interpretation of the Firestorm abilities, make me curious how this will turn out.

Green Lantern Corps: OMG, look at that artwork! I don't think I've seen such beautiful, detailed, immersive artwork in ages. I want to WEAR that art.

Superboy and Teen Titans: I group these two together because (1) Superboy is in both, and (2) Scott Lobdell is writing both, ironically, since we were just discussing him. Superboy has a good vibe about it: I like that he's a blank slate for the most part. Teen Titans reminds me so much of Harbinger that it's hard not to pick it up just as a reminder of past VALIANT glories. [--MikeAnon]

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Anonymous (October 6, 2011 11:51 PM),

Thanks for the correction. I got my Robins mixed up.

If I were writing a Batman #1 title for the general public, I'd leave out Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. This "Former" and "Current" stuff is a bit much for a civilian to digest in one panel: "Robin ... Red Robin ... Robin ... Robin ..."

David Aspmo said...

"Greg Capullo has come a long way since I last saw his work in 1992 when he was drawing X-Force in a Liefeldish style. (It was comics like those that led me to abandon the medium.)"

Capullo never had a Liefeldish style. He was drawing a book that was filled with Liefeld character and costume designs, but his figure work and storytelling were far, far away from (and above) Liefeld's.

Anonymous said...

I accidentally found a link for all of the New 52 titles in one free torrent download.

Would that be wrong?

Defiant1 said...

Jim,

When I was young, there was a cool book titled "How to Draw the Marvel Way". I had no inclination at the time to draw anything, but I thumbed through every page and thought it was an awesome guideline for aspiring artists. As a minimum, I pretty much expect those guidelines. There is a whole class of artwork in mainstream comics now that is equivalent to the stuff that wasn't good enough to be in the mainstream through the 60's, 70's, and 80's. In addition, Manga art has influenced the artists in ways that I find highly undesirable. There are some great Japanese artists, but for the most part I do not want to read a serious comic drawn in the style of Speed Racer. If someone is not drawing a cartoon with the intent to deliver humor, then cartoon artwork comes along as unprofessional. A cartoon interlude might be appropriate if someone is on LSD within the story, but for the most part it just looks like you aren't quite good enough. Comic art adhered to certain increasing standards between the 40's and 80's. Comics that were more cartoon-like dropped by the wayside (or stuck to just cartoon characters) and artists that drew more seriously survived to draw another day.

I'm not a comic book policeman telling anyone how they have to draw. I will tell artists to look at the pattern of what survived from 1940 to 1985 and it seems to me that consumers already made their choices. Artists can align with what consumers wanted, or they can wing it with stylistic cartoon-like work and be dumbfounded when comic book sales flop around like a dead fish.

If anyone likes comic book art like this.... more power to you. I'm glad that you have a product you enjoy. I'll twiddle my thumbs until someone draws something that meets my expectations. The industry would be healthier if both our expectations were met. It would be more revenue feeding the publisher and allowing them to produce an even more diverse mix of product.

ELS said...

Mr. Shooter,

ITEM: You note "Bad choice for a place to sign, Greg. Intrusive. Distracting." Wait, you mean that comic books aren't just a venue for artists to draw WTF they want for people to appreciate? There's a STORY too? This book may not fall directly into that trap, in your estimable opinion - but in mine, too many books are exactly that. (I remember one book a couple years back where the artist signed EVERY SINGLE PAGE as if knowing that each page was just a commodity waiting to be sold - oh, and by the way, Marvel was putting them together for a comic book too.)

ITEM: I think that 256,000 colors is one of the things that has done the most damage to comic books. Granted, four colors are a bit limiting... but at least, the coloring made everything pretty clear. 256,000 colors means THOUSANDS of shades of grey or murky colors. It hurts art a LOT... it even hurts covers of TPBs that have been recolored (and TPBs are the majority of what I buy anymore.)

ITEM: Mr. Shooter, your comments seem so poignant, and your recollections are so enlightening, and I truly enjoy your blog postings tremendously! Can't wait to get your recollections on some of the John Byrne stories...

Harry said...

It strikes me that colouring has progressed since my comic book days in the 80s, but storytelling, characterisation and, in many cases, the art has regressed. If this is an unfair generalisation, I apologise to those doing good work in the field, but it's just my opinion. I'm sure there are people who grew up with the Silver Age Marvel characters who feel what happened in the 80s was a let-down also: actually, Jim, I know you're biased, at least up to 1987, but how, as a reader, do you find the stories of your era as EiC compare with memories of the Silver Age from your own childhood?

William said...

I kind of like Capullo's semi-cartoony artwork. But then again, I think that Bruce Timm is the best Batman artist ever. (I also dig Darwyn Cooke and Cam Stewart as well). I happen to like the artists with more clean and minimalist styles. Classic examples being Wally Wood and Alex Toth.

On the other hand, I very much detest over-rendered artwork. However, I believe that a lot of it in today's comics is caused more by the colorists than the artists. "Photoshop masturbation" seems to be running epidemic among modern comic's colorists. It seems that once these people get the b&w artwork scanned into their computers, they just can't help themselves. It's like they become obsessed with using every PS filter they can get their hands on. They don't seem to care about clarity or storytelling at all (yes, the colorist is also a storyteller). They just want to show off how many Photoshop techniques they know. It also seems like there is a competition among today's colorists to see how many shades of gray and brown they can cram into one page. very sad.

Besides the decompressed writing style, the muddy and confusing coloring of today's comics is one of the main reasons I quit reading them. One day I opened up an issue of Amazing Spider-Man to a double page spread and there was so much crap going on, it almost gave me a freaking headache. I didn't even read the issue. It's just too much work to figure out what the hell your supposed to be looking at.

I am a firm believer in the notion that "just because you can do something, doesn't necessarily mean you should". I am a graphic designer by trade and I was taught early on not to get carried away with everything that modern computer art and layout programs can do. I started out in the early 90's and my instructor used to call the phenomenon "boxitis". Which was the habit, back in the day, of new designers tending to put boxes around everything on a page just because they could. Today's programs can do much much more than draw boxes, and it sometimes makes you feel like you're not doing your job if you don't use your computer and programs to their fullest extent. So it's easy to get carried away. But I really wish someone would pull in the reigns a little on these guys and set some guidelines for what is acceptable coloring.

Dave Young said...

First of all, LOL @ Bat Mite.

Secondly, I enjoyed all the new Bat-books, least of all Batman and Robin, but I didn't care as much for Capullo's art. Perhaps it's proximity bias in my part since I read Spawn back when he was drawing it, but I just felt like I was reading Batman guest-starring in Spawn.

Thirdly, as a kid, the Robin I knew was Dick Grayson from the Super Friends cartoon. Imagine my confusion when I picked up a copy of Who's Who in the DC Universe and saw Robin II. What the heck? Where's the first Robin? But instead of turning me off of comics or the character, it drove me to pick up back issues so I could learn what happened. Now granted, continuity in the new 52 is murky at best, but maybe the different Robins will drive some people to read more to figure it out? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Off topic: Jim... would love to read about the development of the Marvel Graphic Novel series. As fantastic as the story was, I always found it interesting that the company would kill off the character that bears its name (ie, The Death of Captain Marvel). Was it just a case of the story being THAT intriguing to make it worthwhile?

Jerry Novick said...

I agree with Marc - one of the first things I would have shed would have been the "Robin" continuity back story. Now, first let me make it clear - I was a fan of the Jason Todd and the Tim Drake Robin, and of Dick Grayson becoming Nightwing. As a long time reader, I rank these as some of Marv Wolfman's best contributions to the DC mythos.

But, from a "let's bring in new readers and clear up some of the confusion" standpoint, I would have de-aged Grayson to around 17 and had him be Robin. I could see not wanting to lose Drake and Todd as characters - fans have a history with them, they are strong creations, and DC obviously values them. You could still have the new Tim Drake/Red Robin - "a young guy inspired by Batman and Robin" - and Jason Todd/Red Hood - a guy inspired by Batman who thinks the Dark Knight doesn't go far enough.

Then the only loss is Nightwing. Yes, a big loss, but there's no rule that says that somewhere soon down the line Grayson couldn't take on that identity.

As for Damian Wayne - I hate the little snot. And who brings their 10-year old son right into the mouth of deadly danger. Bruce Wayne is a horrible father.

Brian said...

Batman wasn't my favorite of the new 52 (Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Demon Knights all are clearly above it) but only Wonder Woman and maybe Action Comics rivaled it for best true Superhero book.

Diacanu said...

Well, I'm probably showing how long it's been since I picked up a comic...but what in the flying @#$% is an OMAC?!?!!?

Glen said...

Hi Jim,

I agree with many of your points. What I find a little ironic is you slam DC pretty hard for their artwork this week-in the same week Turok 4 was released and frankly it is totally some of the worst art I have ever seen in a comic - story is solid- but the art was weak. One example- The lead womans face looked like she was a different person numerous times, I could go on for paragraphs but I dont want to turn this into a flame so as a big fan of yours I have to ask What Happened???
Thanks for bringing Solar, Turok and Magnus back!
Glen

Anonymous said...

Glen,

I too got Turok #4 and Mighty Samson #4

I wouldn't say that Turok #4 (and also #3) has bad art. I find the story-telling is fine, on the other and it is true that it looks like quickly (but decently) inked layouts rather than finished art.
All the structure is there, but not the additions that makes art pretty.

Stephane Garrelie.

Glen said...

Hi Stephane,
I think you state it very well- "inked layouts rather than finished art"- well put! I guess perhaps I just dont appreciate the unfinished look, as it distracted me from enjoying the book, it just looked rushed and sloppy not what I consider artistic.
Regs,
Glen

Anonymous said...

Hi-back Glen,

I suppose they wanted to close the (now)mini series as quickly as possible, maybe to start again later on new (editorial) basis.
Turok 3 & 4 were actual monthlies, while #1 & #2 where published maybe every 6 months, and that's probably me being optimistic. Sure the art was fine but the delays did hurt the book. I suppose new artist was brought on board at the last moment and did his best to do get the book back on shedulle, going only to the essential.

St├ęphane Garrelie.

Anonymous said...

What is all this stuff about "modern color?"
No one here knows about Little Annie Fanny, Ron Embleton, Frank Hampton, Richard Corben, Heavy Metal, even Marvel stuff like Weird World?

Philip

Dimitris said...

"Well, I'm probably showing how long it's been since I picked up a comic...but what in the flying @#$% is an OMAC?!?!!?"

Actually OMAC goes as back as 1974 and was a Jack Kirby creation

http://www.comics.org/series/2151/covers/

It' s been brought back since (quite altered) during the Infinite Crisis event, and now there's yet another version by Giffen and Didio.

Dimitris said...

I like cartoony artwork when it's good. Will Eisner dealt with some very serious issues with a cartoony style and it worked (except for Ebony's depiction of course).

Even in the 80's Frank Miller was commercially successful with a more cartoony style and his stories weren't mainly humorous. I have to admit when I first saw "The Dark Knight Returns" (my first encounter with Frank Miller's artwork) I found it ugly but after some pages I felt so immersed into the story, I wouldn't want it drawn any other way.

bmcmolo said...

I loved the art to Turok #4, myself. It just goes to show - what is great to one pair of eyes is crap to another.

And that cover! Whew.

Although I did chuckle at Jim's review, as it alternated from "IDIOTS!" to "Don't get me wrong, I liked it - they did a fine job."

JediJones said...

I don't like cartoony artwork in serious superhero comics either, but in my mind I separate that from "stylized" artwork. I would say Frank Miller or Greg Capullo are stylized with a sense of hyper-reality.

I agree with Defiant1 that the "anime" influence is what bothers me. I don't like seeing low detail artwork with oversized eyes, large heads and rubbery-looking disproportioned bodies. I love the DC Animated superhero cartoons and I like the comics that specifically "homaged" that toon style as a novelty. But when regular superhero comics are drawn in a low-detail cartoon fashion, that disappoints me. I feel like I'm missing something.

Here's an example. Not a bad drawing at all. It looks like a great style for a cartoon. But I can have a hard time getting through a comic book drawn in this low-detail, exaggerated, unrealistic style. I feel like I'm being cheated out of the effort that went into the more lifelike, realistic drawings I grew up with in '80s Spider-Man comics.

Disney comics, of course should look like cartoons because they're based on cartoons. But the appeal of superheroes for me has always been seeing how the intrusion of some fantastic element affects a world that otherwise looks and feels very real. Even just from a practical standpoint, comics have the advantage of allowing for more rendering detail than a cartoon, so they should take advantage of it.

I agree that comic art had been going in the direction of more detail and more realism for its entire existence. That's the direction I would prefer they keep going. I can get more involved in the stories when they have that kind of visual authenticity to them. To me, Alex Ross is one of the best things to happen to comics in the last 20 years. His artwork is inspiring. It's a totally original vision that lets us see these characters in a new, different, more authentic way than we ever had before.

As for the complex computer coloring, when done well I think it helps take comics in the direction of more realism. I like seeing every shade of blue that should be there in the sky and in the ocean in Aquaman. I like seeing complex, lifelike flesh tones in the faces of the characters. But it doesn't aid the illusion to put a big fading gradient effect on every gray wall in the background. Sometimes a flat color is appropriate. I'd say the best technique for each frame depends on what makes the artwork look and feel more real. Unless, of course, it's one of those LSD trip scenes.

jimshooter said...

Dear Harry,

How do stories 1978-1987 when I was EIC compare with those I read as a kid? That would take too long to answer thoroughly here. I'll do a post on it sometime. But, in general, almost every comic book published when I was a kid was readable. The artists ALL knew how to tell a story, the writers ALL knew how to write a story. Every creator was a professional with a solid understanding of the fundamentals. However, a lot of the comics were dull. Mostly because creators were creating for kids, talking down to the audience. And a lot of them weren't very invested in the work. It was just a job. There were, of course, exceptions and some great things were done.

In the early 60's, Marvel revolutionized everything -- Stan and co. had passion and professionalism.

During my era at Marvel, the creators' investment was generally much greater than when I was a kid (in the 50's), but many creators were clueless regarding the most basic story and storytelling fundamentals. So, we had some really great stuff and some half-assed albeit enthusiastic and sincere stuff. At least as much passion but less professionalism than early Marvel. However, some of our creators were brilliant in ways never contemplated in the early 60's, they had more means at their disposal and they were standing on the shoulders of giants.

Since then, cluelessness has overwhelmed the industry. The talent has never been better but the ignorance of fundamentals has never been worse.

jimshooter said...

Dear Glen,

The art for the Dark Horse/Gold Key books was not under my control. I did my best on the scripts. What happened after that, well....

Bosch Fawstin said...

Two words: "Photoshop Masturbation"

Perfect way of putting it, Jim, & I liked the comic as well.

Defiant1 said...

It was quite obvious to me that Jim's scripts at Dark Horse were not being rendered in a manner consistent with what Jim expects when he manages a company. I personally felt Dark Horse wasted Jim's talent by hiring him as merely the writer. Georges Jeanty is a local artist that I was running into every few months and he conveyed some complications Jim had when working at DC on Legion. I believe they chatted in San Diego. Between Georges' comments and some other creators smiling that they ignored some of Jim's specific requests, it really bugged the hell out of me. I felt the reader was shortchanged.

As Jim said, many of the modern artists feel that they have a PhD in making comics when all they do is draw sequential art.

Perhaps because my Dad's boss in radio was called "Captain Showbiz" and managed the #1 AM & FM radio stations in Atlanta, I don't idolize people just because they are well known and just because they have something artistic exposed to the public. I pretty much call things as I see them. There are very few comic book creators that I would classify as a "celebrity". Stan Lee... sure. Neal Adams.. yeah. The majority of others... not so much. That doesn't mean there aren't some incredibly gifted people who have worked in comics, they just haven't marketed themselves well enough to escalate their name to the status of celebrity.

I criticize other people's art knowing full well that my own art sucks. The first thing I bought when I drew some cartoons was an electric eraser. It was the most important tool I can personally imagine owning when I sit down to draw something. My local cartoon (not comic art) received praise, but I'm the first person to admit it's not good enough.

I don't think it's wrong to expect a higher level of professionalism from people who are capable artist. I asked one former DEFIANT artist why he was no longer drawing comics and he said that if a publisher wants his style, they go out and hire someone that draws in his style cheaper. He said it wasn't worth even looking for a job in comics for that reason. With that attempt to cut costs, all the publisher does is throw away the skills of someone who does have storytelling ability. Is it a coincidence that a few writers are pumping out multiple titles while proven writers of the past aren't even offered work at all? I don't think so. I think the publishers would rather deal with a few writers that can spit out a stack of decompressed scripts rather than hire a bunch of writers that make sure every comic is jam packed with content.

The readers with higher expectations have wandered off, so the readers that are left have lower expectations. They are happy with shallow decompressed stories and the publishers justify their cost saving actions by saying their customers want decompressed shallow stories. A customer lost is a lot harder to win back, but it has to be done with trust, not 3 or 4 extra variants a month.

Even variants were fine when they began, but publishers have abused it. They are no longer a value added purchase. It's just a way to sell the same customer the same story 2 or 3 more times.

People hate what I say because I speak for the people that wandered off and don't even have an interest in defending how they felt when they quit buying comics.

My message to the industry is "wake up". I want the industry to realize their are potential customers out there that will buy comics if you can reach them and show them you are willing to make the product they want. It would be a very slow process to win them back because the element of trust has been betrayed. Regardless, it can be done.

Marvelman said...

Dear Jim,

I have a question about John Byrne. What the hell is wrong with him? It's like he hates everybody! Was he always like that?

jimshooter said...

RE: Byrne: I'm not qualified to explain "what...is wrong with him." I'll write about experiences I've had involving Byrne someday. He seemed less hateful, as you characterize it, early on at Marvel. Didn't he once write a piece for CBG entitled "I'm a Wheel, I'm a Cog, I'm a Company Man"?

Mark said...

I like Byrne, and I think he is reaaaallllly good at what he does, but when you compare his stuff with someone like Berni Wrightson, not so great that I would hire him to draw illustrations for a novel or design sketches for a film. I cherish my first edition of Cycle of the Werewolf in large part because of the Berni Wrightson illustrations. If it were Byrne, I'd love it because of the association with Stephen King, and Byrne illustrations would just give it a slight "quirk" factor.

Anonymous said...

Jim,

I absolutely love these comics 101 style reviews.

Deviant1,

Perhaps instead of looking for work in comics, the more established artist with the high page rate should just create comics. Publishers like Image Comics exist now where creative people can thrive outside of the work for hire system. It's a shame that we are losing comics by people like BWS or Mike Zeck or Jim Shooter because of inside baseball type situations at Marvel and DC.

-Tom

Piperson said...

Jim, your post are an education!
About the coloring - I liked it for the most part. Why? Because I like the color scheme the artist used. On the cover I rather enjoy the blue and brown theme he's got going. He puts a spot light on Batman to make him stand out while he puts the guys in the foreground in the shadow. Batman is in a pale blue while the guys around him are in very pale greens and browns. I think that not only does it work for me, his choice of colors is elegant.
And again on the first page and on the page with Batman fighting Two-Face he's got a wonderful color scheme going here.
About the interior - it may be a little garish with all the bright gold and things but it still works for me and may show the wealth that Bruce Wane lives in.
Jim, you said you didn't like the coloring. I'd enjoy hearing your reasons for not liking it.
Thanks so much for the great blog! I've never missed a post from the start!

Piperson said...

Oh, One more thing about the coloring. I forgot to mention the variant cover. I find the coloring on it very annoying. The colors seems ill chosen. They are not harmonious. AS far as a color scheme goes there seems to be something related to green (sea green back ground and blue green Batman) But it doesn't really come together. Was this the intention of the colorist to use inharmonious colors in order to heighten a chaotic feel of the scene?
Not only that but it's extremely dark with very little contrast between the back ground and the fore ground giving very little if any direction to the view as to where to look. The guy behind the credits stands out as much if not more than Batman for crying out loud!
While I see that this colorist has some idea of color, this is not a great effort.

jimshooter said...

Dear Piperson,

You're absolutely right about the spotlight technique used on the cover. That's good. My objection to the cover coloring was only that it was very gray -- which, as I said, might be okay for Batman. Other than that, well...Capullo made the area sort of framed by Killer Croc's arms a somewhat confusing tangle of shapes, which the colorist could have helped untangle a bit, but didn't. I'm not talking about screwing up the color theme and "elegant" execution you admire, I'm talking about subtly helping identify which leg belongs to which body (the Riddler and the pig-tailed woman, for instance) dealing better with the arm from no one that appears to be coming out of Killer Croc's right ear, connecting Scarecrow's head to his body better, etc.

The interior also suffers from the colorist not understanding Capullo's drawing in places -- for example the inset of Batman's mouth on the 2-3 spread -- and therefore not only not clarifying it, but making it worse. You can blame at least half of that on Capullo.

Page four, panel 1, again, without screwing up his color schemes and general approach, the colorist could have done a lot to separate planes: make Two-Face more clearly foreground, Killer Croc and the pig-mask guy middle ground and the background background. The gray pipe and doorway to the right of Batman, so similar to Batman's hue and value, is a depth-killer.

More of the same throughout. The second panel of page six, already made confusing by the black page background running into the shadows in the panel and both running into the mostly black panel below was a challenge, but the colorist didn't help.

In some cases, the colorist was helped by the strength of Capullo's design. Sometimes he capitalized, sometimes he didn't.

Like you, I appreciated the color-theme change for the Wayne manor sequence. I didn't find it garish.

All in all, "bad" was too strong a word. There's a lot to like about the coloring.

I think that sometimes I tend to react to missed opportunity more than to mistakes. A war that could have been won for want of a nail troubles me more than a workman-like job by workmen or a sow's ear that with great additional effort might have become a rayon purse.

jimshooter said...

Dear Piperson,

I agree entirely. Who knows what this colorist was thinking? But, I doubt that even Lynn Varley or JayJay, the Elf herself, could have saved this cover. I don't like it at all.

Jerry Novick said...

The interior coloring on the new 52 has been pretty bad across the board, with a few exceptions like Justice League International and Superman (which even then was guilty of using a bit too much "mood" coloring, which distracted me from the rest of the art).

Most of the books use an extremely narrow color palette. In All-Star Western, this works because it's a "period piece" - but even then the narrow color palette becomes old fast.

Hawkman stood out as an especially egregious photoshop hack job. The narrow and extremely muted color palette destroyed what looks like could have been some very good art. I mean, the colorist should be charged with murder.

And even the Batman books live in an extremely blandly colored world.

Defiant1 said...

Anonymous #13,

Obviously there are advantages to drawing an established character and guranteed sales that would be associated with the character's name. The risk is much higher of inadequate exposure with a new and unproven character. I feel that the readers suffers when experienced creators are not chosen for a character that has already proven he is worthy of more proficient talent.

My understanding is that Image does have stipulations which must be met to utilize their logo. I've been told creators must agree to run a certain number of ads for other Image comics and I believe they have to agree to buy ad space in other Image comics. There's a whole extra layer of business side management which costs money and negates the advantages of self-publishing in my opinion. It is an option, but I think it's far more likely they'd rather take a job outside of comics that is willing to pay their rate.

BWS has been working on a larger comics project of his own. Samples of the artwork are posted on his website. I'm sure it'll probably see print in hardback format when it's completed. The only advantage of someone like BWS doing a monthly comic is that it keeps his art in the public eye and lines up more lucrative work. His fan base is already established. I think his name alone can pull comic fans out of retirement if they get word that he's got a product on the market. That's a big "if" in our current comic industry world of inadequate distribution and marketing.

Anonymous said...

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

bmcmolo said...

57 Channels might be more appropriate:

http://www.brucespringsteen.net/songs/57Channels.html

But you probably meant discussing these things is akin to old ballplayers saying "back in my day." In which case, meh.

KintounKal said...

Jerry Novick,

I disagree that Bruce Wayne is a horrible father. Keep in mind what happened the first time Damian was locked in his bedroom in Batman #657 ("Batman & Son, Part 3: Wonderboys"). He used Alfred's fingerprints on the lock's keypad and broke into the Batcave mimicking Tim Drake's voice before decapitating the Spook just to prove to his father that he was capable of fighting crime.

Practically every issue written by Grant Morrison has gone to great lengths to establish that Damian should not be treated as an ordinary child. You can hate him as much as you want but I think it's silly to question the rules a writer repeatedly lays out. If Tony Stark had a baby boy and created an adamantium stroller for him, would you really get mad when the tyke is parked in the middle of a brawl?

jimshooter said...

"Adamantium stroller." LOL!