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Comics

Here Comes Tomorrow: Time Traveling With Comics This Summer

Those Crazy Days: A title page from Harvey Kurtzman's deeply meditative The Grasshopper and the Ant.

Some have argued that comics is about nostalgia. This is patently untrue. For a medium that requires readers to synthesize a coherent moment from disparate image- and text-sequences, comics is always about that future moment. Here's a summer-long comics cavalcade.

It's hard to think about the summer and not think about marketing guru Seth Godin. Was it an anecdote from his book Tribes, or from his Purple Cow? Seth was on vacation, some tropical somewhere. And at around six am, he'd begun checking his email.

The hotel he was staying at had an open-plan business center off to one side of the main lobby. As Seth was typing away, some holiday-makers, last of the party-goers, staggered back into the hotel and past the business center. They sniggered to each other. What kind of job must that poor sap have, one was heard to whisper, if he needs to check email while on vacation.

There was an almost immediate flare of shame. But equally, Seth formulated his response mentally. If you do the kind of job that he need relief from, if you do the kind of job that doesn't drive you crazy being away from, what quality of life are you leading?

That's always a memory that will stick. Not only because the story is now strangely anachronistic (Are we still checking email at a terminal? Do you still get people who don't have at least 75 percent of their life run digitally?). But also because that story is the theme of a good summer. Work, but slower and often in exotic locations. A little like that old-timey Glen Larson show, Masquerade.

Remembering that anecdote is a little like going back in time. Because it's only separated from the you and me of the present moment by a few short years. But it feels so distant. Like something unbearable at some terminal horizon that we can't cross back into.

But there's another sense in which this summer's going to feel like time travel, feel like it involves the past, present and future. And that's got to do with the slow-down work I'll be doing this season. The kind of work that sees me re-immersing myself in good times of the recent past, in reading with anticipation the exciting new projects the present has to offer. And most of all, the projects that I just can't talk about yet.

The Past

It's starting up again. The kind of mega-events we've last seen in what feels like decades ago. Marvel's doing "Fear Itself" which seems to be addressing what their editors have identified as the looming dread in the zeitgeist. It's the company's first major event tied in to a core limited series. Fear Itself will itself run seven issues, and spin off into nearly a dozen character-spotlighting minis, and every mainstream title published by Marvel.

DC is doing no less. It's kicked off "Flashpoint", which maps out the path of how history itself is broken. This is the second major project for writer Geoff Johns as DC's Chief Creative Officer, following on from Brightest Day. And it's a time travel story with Barry Allen's Flash, the real Flash.

I won't be following any of these, though. Or not yet, at least. I'd rather let them gather some steam of their own and pick up the collected editions later.

But these kinds of mega-events are critically important to the creative evolutions of these companies. The year-long DC mega-event, 52, was co-written by Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, among others. It saw Morrison positioned as lead writer for the Batman stable of titles, and eventually pen DC's next major event, Final Crisis. Johns would of course go on to become DC's CCO, to head up Blackest Night, Brightest Day and mastermind the return of Barry Allen as Flash.

So it's the fallout that interests me, rather than the event itself. Over at Marvel, their last major event, "Civil War" literally unleashed the writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. And the book that developed was not Brubaker's legendary runs on Captain America or Daredevil, nor Fraction's phenomenal run on Invincible Iron Man, but the most exacting vision of the kung fu hero, Danny Rand in the Immortal Iron Fist.

If anything, this summer's forage into the past will see me preparing by rereading the Brubaker-Fraction run on the Immortal Iron Fist.

The Present

So I won't be reading the mega-events as they unfurl. I will be reading the past as it impacts on the presents. BOOM! Studios' release of Elric: the Balance Lost ties together the various incarnations of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion. Tony Parker's visionary retelling of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (got Bladerunner?) is one issue away from concluding. And Ducktales! BOOM!'s relaunched Ducktales. And Clive Barker himself is doing Hellraiser.

But for me, I just wild for seeing the end of Radical's Earp: Saints for Sinners. Abattoir's ending shortly as well. (Which is hands down the creepiest horror this year… remember The Ring? You'll want to watch that to wind down after reading Abattoir). But I'm most excited by Damaged which is written by crime noir kingpin David Lapham.

The Future

I can't say a lot, but I can say this: eight movies. One company's currently underway with producing eight movies. The first of which has already been announced. So playing my cards right, it means eight set visits, eight directors, eight screenwriting teams, eight producers and exec producers. I can't wait for 2012 . In the meantime, I'll console myself with the groundbreaking Jake The Dreaming, released in time for Christmas.

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