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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

Looking back on it now, Hero Illustrated No. 3, cover-dated September 1993 is simply a treasure-trove of ‘90s memorabilia. The issue’s gate-fold cover is graced with artwork by Marc Silvestri and Brandon Peterson from their collaboration on the back then still hot-off-the-presses Codename: Stryke Force for publishing house Image. It was this decision of cover-art that makes a powerful statement about the publication and its role in the industry.


Once the magazine is opened, a Return of Superman ad appears on the facing page, warning readers that Superman really has returned from the dead. The long year of having been beaten brutally to death at the hands of Doomsday and the subsequent “Reign of the Supermen” event (wherein imposters and supporters alike attempted to fill the void of the missing Superman) is now finally at an end. Just inside the gate-fold itself, is an ad for Batman #500. this ad shows nothing but replacement Batman Jean Paul Valley, replete in his Dark Knight armor. The claws look genuinely menacing, but strangely not out of place in the more violent setting of ‘90s superhero kitsch.


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Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010

There’s a problem with the two major superhero teams in the DCU. They’re grown to be like families: dysfunctional. In fact, they’re so dysfunctional that it’s come to a point where both the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America have members divorcing themselves from the teams, splintering off into alternate titles (see JSA All Stars, JLA: Cry For Justice) and otherwise bumping around the DCU looking for a new purpose. Meanwhile it’s very obvious to readers that behind the curtain the DCU that is looking at these characters and trying to figure out what to do with them.


Great Hera!


While JLA has undergone many changes over its myriad incarnations (ah, the Justice League International) and JSA is searching for a new mission, readers are left month to month wondering (and wandering) what to make of it all.  While the national divorce rate is reported to be upwards of 70 percent, such should not be the case in the world of the superhero team. Here are few core ideas that should be considered when addressing the revitalization of these key franchises.


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Thursday, Jan 7, 2010

Alexander Theroux calls blue “mysterious” in his book-length meditation The Primary Colours: “It is the colour of ambiguous depth, of the heavens and of the abyss at once.” That sense of ambiguity and overall strangeness seems to suffuse every one of Taiyo Matsumoto’s wavy lines in his short story collection Blue Spring.


The color carries more importance than being the title. Five years after the book was published in 1993, Matsumoto added to the mystery when he wrote of the work:


“No matter how passionate you were, no matter how much your blood boiled, I believe youth is a blue time. Blue—that indistinct blue that paints the town moments before the sun rises. Winter is coming.”



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Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010

I was a child of the 90s, but I was also a child in the 90s. Being born in ‘86 made getting to know good comics of the early 90s slightly difficult. Equally troubling, was the fact that I was not old enough to have a job, so no income. So, the only comics I was privilege to were those on the stands at the grocery store. Or yard sales. More often than not, comic books went unnoticed for me, especially by independent publishers.


Luckily, we have trade paperbacks that let us relive the days of our youth, to read the books we may have missed, without paying an arm and a leg for back issues. Exhibit A: Harbinger: Children of the Eighth Day.


I heard it was groundbreaking.


I heard it was well written. I just never took the time to read it myself. But am I ever glad I did. Especially now, as an adult.


The characters in this book were surprisingly deep. Flamingo and Sting stood out from the rest. With Flamingo trying to find self worth, after constantly pursuing meaningless sexual relationships; and Sting finding a balancing the good and evil uses of his powers, true internal struggles are depicted. It is hard not to be instantly invested in these characters lives. Seeing Kris and Sting fight at the end made me realize that.


One thing that does give this book a dated feel is some of the language. When an evil android is calling one of our heroes a “sneaky little slut”, you can’t help but chuckle. For the most part though, it flows. But every once in a while the vocabulary sticks out like a sore thumb, and makes you wonder if anyone ever used words like “scumblot”.


This book is very special, because it is simply about people and their relationships. And that was quite an achievement for the superhero-driven 90s. Yes, it is about having super powers, and fighting bad guys. But, at the very core of this story is the relationships. From beginning to end, we see these characters fight with each other, and struggle to get along. However, we also see them relying on each other for strength, standing up for one another when times are tough. These are ideals that everyone can relate to, regardless of when the book was written.


After 17 years, despite some slightly dated vocabulary, Harbinger: Children of the Eighth Day still tells an entertaining story, with easily relatable characters.


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Tuesday, Jan 5, 2010

Bruce Wayne is dead. Bruce Wayne is alive. Long live Bruce Wayne.


No matter what side of the dead or alive controversy following Bruce Wayne’s apparent death during the events of Final Crisis one may be on, the return of the character is inevitable and if the talk around town is correct will be the first major Missed Direction of 2010 for the DCU.


While it seems likely that the character will be returned to life or, at least, to our time period using the mechanism of ‘Oh Darkseid used the Omega Sanction on Bruce Wayne and that doesn’t really kill the person just displaces them in time’, using such a wellworn plot device to bring the character back would immediately suck the integrity out of not only the “Battle For The Cowl” arc, but all the existing Batman storylines (along with any emotional investment readers have put into the new world of Dick Grayson as Batman).


Since the return of Bruce Wayne in 2010 seems inevitable, here are a few scenarios to help keep the DCU Powers That Be on track.


1) Don’t bring back Bruce Wayne. Wait. That’s inevitable.


2) Don’t bring Bruce Wayne back as Batman. This is an excellent opportunity to show the personal growth of the character and explore storylines that take Wayne beyond Batman.


3) Don’t bring Bruce Wayne back in a series of stories that have him traveling through time until he reaches the present or have him be saved by Booster Gold. Remember, to those in the present moment he’s already dead if he’s in the distant past.


Instead, consider this: a new ongoing series that has Bruce Wayne in a time period set in the past using his skills to fight evil in a different place and time permanently.


Just a bit of out-of-the-cowl thinking can turn what will look like a marketing ploy into new mythology. The DCU Powers That Be should be urged to avoid taking this wrong direction with ‘The Return of Bruce Wayne’ in 2010.


Now, if only the Justice Society of America and Justice League can be saved. But that’s the subject for another tomorrow.


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