Superman Plans, Bill Jemas Dismantled, Secret War, and More

Superman Plans AnnouncedSome of this is old news, but it bears being lumped together.

December issues of the Superman titles will see the end of the present creative teams. Action Comics #810 — scheduled for 3 December release — brings Joe Kelly’s run as writer to a close with a New Year’s story. Adventures of Superman #623 — scheduled for the following week — brings Joe Casey’s run as writer to a close with a Christmas story. (Yes, that does seem reversed … but that’s the truth.) Superman #200 — scheduled for release on Christmas Eve — brings writer Steven T. Seagle and penciller Scott McDaniel’s run to a close. Seagle and McDaniel took over the flagship title in February, following January’s Superman: The 10-Cent Adventure. Their work has featured the ambiguous Futuresmiths and a new Supergirl named Cir-El. Superman #200 promises to tie together the plot strands of the title’s previous year, and it will feature additional artists like Gene Ha and Phil Jimenez illustrating possible future versions of many of DC’s characters. Metropolis will also get a makeover, the first since the end of 1999 saw its transformed into a futurist’s wet dream. These events will tie into Superman: Metropolis #12, the conclusion of that mini-series.

This is not the end of an era on the level with the end of the pre-Crisis Superman and the beginning of John Byrne’s — though some press has claimed this. It is, however, probably even bigger than 1999′s new direction that brought writer Jeph Loeb onto Superman. While the Superman creators have reportedly handled well their removal — done to make room for a new batch of creative teams — not all of them are utterly gone in December. Additional Seagle work on Superman will see print at some later point with Vertigo’s Superman 128-page hardcover, subtitled It’s a Bird… an announced in Vertigo’s tenth anniversary special at the beginning of this year. It will feature art by Teddy Kristiansen. Seagle wrote the more mature story — over the course of a year, he claims — prior to his run on Superman. In fact, he wrote it after he had rejected the offer to become a regular Superman writer, and used It’s a Bird… to work out what he didn’t like or understand about the character. Having completed the Vertigo graphic novel, he was again offered the job from Superman editor Eddie Berganza — and this time accepted impulsively. Joe Kelly will return as well in February (as described below).

At the end of Superman #200, Superman will disappear. January sees the “Strange New Visitor” storyline run through the three Superman titles, focusing on Metropolis in the absence of its hero. Wildstorm’s Mr. Majestic — a Superman figure who first appeared in WildC.A.T.s while Wildstorm was still at Image, and whose own series led to its artist Ed McGuiness being tapped to illustrate Loeb’s Superman — will strangely replace Superman during the storyline. Each of the three issues features writing by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Karl Kerschl, and a cover by Ed McGuiness and Dexter Vines.

February sees the beginning of the six-issue “Godfall” storyline, running through all three Superman titles in that month and in March as well. Written by Michael Turner and Joe Kelly, with art by Talent Caldwell and Jason Gorder, the story begins with Superman reappearing — strangely on Krypton, where the emergence of his new powers causes strife in Kryptonian society. These six issues will feature back-ups paving the way for Superman’s new direction and created by the new Superman teams. Action #812 thus features a back-up scripted by Chuck Austen, Adventures #625 has a back-up scripted by Greg Rucka, and Superman sports a back-up by Brian Azzarello that sets the stage for his upcoming Lex Luthor: Man of Steel mini-series.

February also sees a stand-alone issue of Superman / Batman (#7), scripted by series writer Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Pat Lee, hot off his run on Transformers. It also sees the seventh issue of Superman: Birthright (a 12-issue mini-series), writer Mark Waid’s re-envisioning of Superman’s history. February also sees Superman: Return to Krypton, collecting the “Return to Krypton” storyline and other material — including three Jeph Loeb Superman issues.

Along with the new creative teams, and the continuation of Superman: Birthright, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel will be only the first of a number of mini-series focusing on other aspects of Metropolis and of Superman’s world. Perhaps, with the addition of Jim Lee, the Superman titles can return to greatness — or at least popularity — once again.

Bill Jemas Dismantled

Following Bill Jemas’s removal as Marvel’s Publisher, the company indeed seems to be retreating from his most recent projects. First, the Epic imprint stopped taking submissions. Then Epic announced that its already accepted work would be repackaged together as a quarterly anthology, with sales determining whether the anthology would continue — dubious given American comics readers’ dislike of both quarterlies and anthologies. Some series have been removed from the schedule, and the quarterly itself seems in jeopardy while the imprint appears effectively dead.

The Tsunami non-line of new ongoings has looked in jeopardy as well, with sales plummeting across the board. The planned trade paperbacks of those series have been scaled back and scaled down in size, given a new and smaller format reminiscent of Japanese comics and their U.S. editions. Now Namor, co-written by Bill Jemas and Andi Watson, has been cancelled, ending with #12. The title was plagued with problems from the start. First, Japanese artist Mizuki Sakakibara was pulled from the series prior to the first issue because, reportedly, her style contrasted with Jemas’s vision. Sal Larroca (recently of X-Treme X-Men) replaced her, only to himself be moved to another series and replaced with Pat Olliffe. Olliffe was reportedly soon informed that he was off Namor and instead on the adaptation of the upcoming Punisher movie. All this in the title’s first year. Not to mention that the title’s launch was delayed and, though it has now been cancelled, received a loss-leading 25-cent promotional first issue.

No one seems to be crying the tears for Namor that they are crying over Epic Comics. Cowriter Andi Watson, known for more mature black-and-white work, expressed neither surprise nor regret in a public statement about the cancellation.

Secret War Declassified

Marvel has for some time been trying to get a new Secret Wars series off the ground. Quesada and company wanted a major writer for the series, even approaching Neil Gaiman to write it. (Gaiman came up with 1602 instead.) At long last, a writer has been found — none other than the presently hot and acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis — and the series has been announced … as Secret War — a covert ops book rather than another tale centered around the world-shattering Marvel character called the Beyonder.

The story will be told in five quarterly books running 48 pages each and featuring fully painted art by Dell’Otto. The story, featuring a realistic tone, has Nick Fury recognizing a link between Marvel’s prominent villains, then assembling an extra-legal force of heroes to deal with it. The idea is to make older stories make sense rather than contradicting them. Bendis is already planning a crossover in The Pulse, his follow-up to Alias.

Notable DC in February

February sees the release of Mighty Love, a 96-page hardcover entirely by Howard Chaykin. It tells a love stories between vigilantes who are, by day, a cop and a district attorney.

The DC Focus line begins with Hard Time, written by Steve Gerber and examining life behind bars. Future DC Focus books will include Kinetic, Touch, and Fraction.

Monolith debuts in February, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, illustrated by Phil Winslade. It features a monster made of clay during the Great Depresssion.

Geoff Johns is leaving Hawkman with #25, the conclusion of the weekly six-part storyline running through biweekly issues of both Hawkman and JSA. A second Hawkman TP is also being offered.

Wonder Woman #201 shows the aftermath of writer Greg Rucka’s “Down to Earth” storyline, which has devastated Paradise Island. Even more interesting, a trade paperback subtitled Gods and Mortals, collects the first seven issues of the series, featuring George Pérez’s retelling of Wonder Woman’s introduction to the world. Buy it so that we can get more of these.

Howard Porter begins his run as penciller on The Flash with #207, which has a Michael Turner cover. February will also see a new collection of Geoff Johns’s Flash issues: Crossfire collects #183-191.

The Light Brigade, a 3-part prestige format mini-series written by Peter Tomasi and illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg, debuts in February. It focuses on angels interfering with G.I.s during World War II.

18 February will see Batman: Roomful of Strangers, a special illustrated by Scott Morse and focusing on Jim Gordon.

DCU: The New Frontier #2, by Darwyn Cooke, focuses on the Flash and other Silver Age characters, like the Challengers of the Unknown.

Notable Vertigo in February

The Sandman Presents series of specials and mini-series is returning with a four-issue mini-series subtitled Thessaly — Witch for Hire, written by Bill Willingham (of Fables and the The Sandman Presents: Taller Tales TP).

The new series The Losers gets its first TP in February. The series has gotten good reviews and the TP is likely hoped to bring in new readers.

The Authority Takes Over the World

February sees the Authority take over the world in the “Coup d’État” storyline, published weekly in regular-sized specials replacing the regular books. Coup d’État — Sleeper, written by Ed Brubaker with (none other than) Jim Lee art, begins the storyline with Tao tricking the U.S. into provoking the Authority with an inter-dimensional incident. Coup d’État — Stormwatch: Team Achilles, written by Micah Ian Wright, sees the team prepare to face off against the Authority. Coup d’État — Wildcats Version 3.0, written by Joe Casey, brings the Wildcats into the mix. And Coup d’État — The Authority, written by Robbie Morrison with art by Whilce Portacio, concludes the storyline with the Authority at last taking over the world.

The Future of America’s Best Comics

Tom Strong #25, scheduled for February, is written by Geoff Johns in his first work for ABC, with art by John Paul Leon. With #23 written by Peter Hogan without (stated) involvement by Alan Moore (unlike Hogan’s past ABC work), it now seems that Moore’s retirement from comics and ABC’s transition to other writers is in effect.

Moore plans to conclude Promethea around #33 with an apocalyptic storyline. His work continues to be seen in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales for the time being. The Smax mini-series is wrapping up, and the other Top 10 spin-off, the graphic novel The Forty-Niners, has yet to see print. And there are more mini-series planned for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But that’s about it for Moore and ABC. With ABC’s sales low, the future of the line remains to be seen.

Hey, Gang! Big Bang Comics

For many years, Big Bang Comics has been published through Image. The series, with many spin-offs and specials, has featured stories written and illustrated in a deliberately nostalgic way — much like flashbacks in Alan Moore’s Supreme. Moore himself praised the series and planned to write a story (though I don’t think that ever materialized). February sees the debut of a four-issue mini-series entitled Big Bang Comics: Round Table of America. I mention this because it is done in the style of Grant Morrison’s JLA — so younger readers can now enjoy the nostalgic style of Big Bang.

Thanos: The End

The ongoing Thanos series, launched in October following the mini-series Marvel Universe: The End, now faces the loss of Jim Starlin. Starlin has guided Thanos through Starlin’s previous work on Captain Marvel, Warlock and the Infinity Watch, Infiity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity Crusade, and the more recent Thanos: Infinity Abyss. Starlin had never planned on penciling more than six issues of the Thanos ongoing. Now, on his website, Starlin has announced that, due to “irreconcilable differences,” he will step down as writer after issue #7. It is widely believed that this will spell the end of the series and that, if it continues under another writer, fans will not support it.

Thanos #3 is scheduled to ship in the first week of December.

Big Plans for Smallville

The TV series Smallville, now in its third season, featuring a young Clark Kent in his home town of Kansas, exhibiting his powers without a costume, will apparently be forming a Matrix-like synergy of its various components: the TV series, the comic book series, and the website. The comic book — which is getting its first trade paperback collection — will fill in gaps between episodes, adding to viewers’ understanding of the events on TV without being a necessary component. Smallville #5 — released on Wednesday, November 19th (a few days ago) — features a story that occurs between the second and third season. The website features The Smallville Ledger, the fictional newspaper of Smallville, that features news articles similarly supplementing events on TV and in the comics.

This is reminiscent of The Matrix‘s tying in an episode in The Animatrix to its second and third movies, which themselves continue into and from one another — while the Enter the Matrix video game told some of the sequels’ events from another perspective (not to mention the online comics). We might also remember the French series Les Cités Obscures, which featured a volume of newspapers from its fictional world. We’re getting smarter: expect more cross-media tie-ins in the future.

New Powers TP

The sixth Powers trade paperback, collecting #25-30 and subtitled The Sellouts, will be published in February.

Be Prepared with Trojans

Hey, retailers! As Troy and Greek-related movies make their way to theatres, it’s time to stock up on Age of Bronze, Eric Shanower’s black-and-white epic. The first trade paperback, subtitled A Thousand Ships, is also available.

1602 Annotations

My own annotations to 1602 have been updated dramatically and include exhaustive annotations to all four issues. The annotations to #4 were posted the day after the comic’s release, a claim shared with those for two of the three previous issues. This is a major scholarly work, already of considerable length. If you like them, tell a friend in lieu of payment for my late nights.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

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