Ring Out the Old: The 2012 Year-End Wrap, Episode Four

Splash Art: detail from the Activity #10 cover art, published by Image

We're drawing to a close on the year-end wrap conversation between comics editors Shathley Q and Michael D. Stewart, but the conversation wouldn't be complete without weighing the 20 years after of Image Comics, Dark Horse and DC/Vertigo who in the '90s redefined both comics corporate culture and creative product…

@uu3y324rdry: That's why for me, for writer of the year, I've really got to call it for Geoff. For that. And for Harvey Bullock's fall in Batman: Earth One

So yeah, just to swing back to Baz…what you get is an Arab-American being framed in the same way as a mythic hero of the Old West. And I know how deeply you wrestle with these ideas of identity…and also the re-ignition of America from its European roots.

So really for me Geoff's Simon Baz unites the new electoral map of America…(the Democrats leveraging the increase in ethnic diversity versus the GOP just kinda flopping about on the issue)…with your concerns around American Vampire.

@MichaelDStewart: It certainly plays into this narrative of the US changing, of evolving into the meltingpot it was hyped to be.

@uu3y324rdry: Agreed. Let's shift gears a little. It's been 20 years of Image this year. You think there's anything still left on the table from the old creator-vee-corporation debates?

@MichaelDStewart: Yes and no. I think Image is filling in the gap of new creations, mainly because the Big 2, Marvel and DC are set-up not to incubate that kind of creation. And Image has changed. Their new marketing campaign with their creators says it all, experience creativity.

@uu3y324rdry: Yes, I really do like where Image is right now.

Y'know what? I can't think of a "bad" Shadowline book off the top of my head.

Callum Israel and the team board Moksha in the Massive #7

@MichaelDStewart: They launched 20 years ago almost as a company out of spite against DC and Marvel, and their creations reflected that in those early days. Now they've moved beyond that to really incubate and foster new ideas and new stories. New creations that pop with where we are.


I think the best books of the year are coming from Image. Saga has to be the best, if not top 3 of the year.


@uu3y324rdry: Oh Saga is everything space opera should be. Should want to be even.

@MichaelDStewart: Peter Panzerfaust, very under the radar, but a fantastic read.


@uu3y324rdry: but the low-key stuff…


Yes! Panzerfaust!


@MichaelDStewart: And I've written extensively about the Li'l Depressed Boy and how I feel it connects with narrative fidelity better than most books.


@uu3y324rdry: I'm wild about Comeback and Harvest.

@MichaelDStewart: And Chew.


@uu3y324rdry: Great Pacific and I Love Trouble




And Manhattan Projects and Fatale, heck there's even a MacGyver sequel

@MichaelDStewart: Bedlam, Morning Glories, we could just go on and on.


@uu3y324rdry: Absolutely! Every week there's an Image book and I'm kinda sorta, yeah ok I'll try it and then I'm hooked. And…no spoilers on Bedlam…I haven't read #2 yet.

@MichaelDStewart: But I think the point is the indie companies, I'll throw Dark Horse in here too, are filling the gap of creativity left by DC and Marvel. Brian Wood's the Massive is quite good over at Dark Horse. Even his Conan, which is very much like Northlanders, is a good licensed book.

And Dark Horse has been launching small series; The Creep, No 13, Resident Alien through their anthology Dark Horse Presents and they have all been excellent.

@uu3y324rdry: Man, what would I do without DHP? And and emphatic yes on both Conan and the Massive.

@MichaelDStewart: I think Wood, as a popular writer with a certain crowd, is very good for Dark Horse. Calls attention to their other creator-owned properties that people might ignore because they're not Hellboy.

@uu3y324rdry: DH does books that aren't Hellboy? d: [:


@MichaelDStewart: Ha… or Star Wars, which Wood will be writing one next year, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or...


@uu3y324rdry: Yeah, yeah, yeah [:


Y'know we jest about this…but I think we're both coming from a place where we really respect the business acumen that sustains those corporate-licensed books.

@MichaelDStewart: Yes, and I appreciate the creative promise of some of them. I mean, Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics are written for hardcore fans. They are good sometimes, they're bad sometimes, but that certain crowd just loves them no matter what.


@uu3y324rdry: [:

@MichaelDStewart: And for the most part, the corporate Powers That Be let them alone and go off in whatever direction. Star Wars was fairly controlled, but it had the appearance of a respected creative process.


@uu3y324rdry: Yes, agreed. It's really amazing to me, that those two very different visions for indie companies…visions which date back to the 90s…that these very different visions have really stood the test of time.

@MichaelDStewart: They've survived.


@uu3y324rdry: Image had to work to get where it is, Dark Horse just rarefied its vision over time, but yeah…they both survived.


Of course…the elephant in the room is Vertigo…Vertigo was the third of three unique corporate visions…


@MichaelDStewart: Image has become what Vertigo was.

@uu3y324rdry: For sure. And Vertigo now? Who hit their 20th anniversary in November of this year.


@MichaelDStewart: Vertigo still has some tremendous assets. American Vampire...Fables


@uu3y324rdry: Yes. Though it must be said…I like that Hellblazer's moving back to regular DC.


@MichaelDStewart: They've published some good books, the New Deadwardians was very good, Sweet Tooth has been excellent.

@uu3y324rdry: I really liked New Deadwardians.


@MichaelDStewart: Hellblazer lasted a long time, but it is part of the spark missing from DC's New 52. The future books from Snyder and Lemire, announced at NYCC, could be very good. Punk Rock Jesus has been very enjoyable.


I just don't see the focused support to have Vertigo as a viable imprint. But they're putting out good books.

It's like a corporate view that these Vertigo titles are not supporting IP renewal or larger revenue streams so we'll deflate them slowly. If they catch, a earn a little over their production cost, then we'll let them hang around.


@uu3y324rdry: You think the Chris Roberson thing around ComicCon hurt Vertigo any?

@MichaelDStewart: No. No one creator could hurt something like that. I think whats hurting Vertigo is corporate trying to run an art imprint. Vertigo, seemed to become a talent farm for a while, but that has kind of died with Snyder and Lemire.


@uu3y324rdry: I think I'm with you on both those points. Albeit…Liefeld's upcoming tell-all might disagree. [;

@MichaelDStewart: Liefeld is just something else entirely. Part truth, part delusion, part self-created "monster".


@uu3y324rdry: Yeah, maybe.


A chase sequence over gridlocked traffic ends in Multiple Warheads #2

To switch up again, how about the big megaevents this year--Before Watchmen and AVX? They don't seem to re-capture the same gusto and ambition Fear Itself and Flashpoint did last year.

@MichaelDStewart: Before Watchmen, for whatever it is or will be, is in my opinion a wasted opportunity. Good, bad, excellent, terrible, doesn't matter. All the money and time invested could have been used to create something new.

AVX was a means to an ends. The vehicle to get Marvel to their NOW! point, will it be something that stays in the collective consciousness? Probably not, just another event after event after event to fill sales charts.


@uu3y324rdry: Y'know?, with AVX, I just couldn't get into the idea of it. Then I re-watched Basilisk and the floodgates just opened--I was left hugely disappointed with AVX because Basilisk was somehow instructive of what AVX could have been, should have been.

Basilisk is this anime about a war of attrition fought between two ninja clans. It's conflict orchestrated by outside political players for their own ends, preying on the inherent hatred of one clan for the other. And the twist is, in this current generation of the ninja clans, the heads of the two rival clans are lovers.

Revisiting AVX after re-watching Basilisk and I'm just left dry. AVX could have been high concept:

"This is the worldview of the Avengers, this, the core philosophy of the X-Men…you may not have noticed but they're two views really at odds with each other and now, only one can win out"



The book could have really reframed the whole event to delve into the culture of bloodlust that comes with prizefighting. James Ellroy has a wonderfully vivid essay appearing in his collection Destination: Morgue that touches deeply on the psychological elements of the prizefight.

And in Marvel's own library, there's a hauntingly poignant line from Joe Casey's Iron Man: the Inevitable: "Ask anyone and they'll tell you they've got Iron Man pegged…Bodyguard. Super hero. Avenger. But the worst of it…one side of a 'vs.' marquee that I've come to see as a ridiculous paradigm of wrestling clichés and wasted energies".

It's a line that really gets to grips with a hidden trait in Tony Stark's nature--his savior complex. Stark's talking to Doc Samson at the time, and he extends his point by talking about how Iron Man's villains won't let him be "free to evolve" beyond their "versus" paradigm.

And there's a parallel here that I can easily identify in AVX. And it saddens me that this book could at least about the conceptual conflict of superheroes trying to evolve beyond a "Marvel vs. CapCom" style beat-em-up paradigm.

@MichaelDStewart: It's conflict for conflict, but AVX did serve a publishing purpose.

@uu3y324rdry: That it did, we should really talk about that purpose. Not just as a lead-in to Marvel NOW!, but the much bigger picture.

@MichaelDStewart: Agreed, this is far from done…

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