Friday, October 7, 2011

Notes On The 52

My guess is if you're reading this you've maybe seen some part of the rest of the internet at some point this year, but if you haven't: DC Comics has relaunched all of its comics from #1 (also: Steve Jobs died, everyone on youtube thinks Justin Bieber sucks and music was better in whatever decade the song they are commenting on was first recorded in, and people really like cats and pornography). They sent me all of them. I read all of them. (Now here's the part where you say you don;t read comics much but you always liked Marvel better, except Batman. Thank you, I did not know that.) Here are some notes on the best ones...


Starts with a faux text piece in real-life magazine The Believer which I am skipping. And now some very nice art. See, this is how you do "clean line" art--you use the open areas to organize the negative space into patterns and then cinch each panel together around a short burst of interesting detail. And this is how you write not-costume-wearing scenes--make them matter in the context of a superhero comic: Animal Man's daughter can't get a dog because if he's around any one animal for too long he bonds with it and his powers don't work right. That's cute. Oh, his costume completely sucks though. Nice sound effects "Thok". Animal Man's eyes bleeding (second bleeding eyes in the 52 so far). "Weight of a bumblebee so as not to wake the kids" nice. Now some cryptic Vertigo shit. I'm on board.


JH Williams III uses shadows rather than line weight for inflection and variety. What's that mean? It means he's better at night than during the daytime. Which is kind of like all the Bat characters--at night they're fun and during they day they moan about their parents. Oddly, JH WIlliams is responsible for most of the starring-female-superheroes-but-have-good-art-anyway comics in all of history--Chase, Promethea, and now this. Anyway, go read Batwoman, it's good.


You may know this as the comic which has the two pages in it that get reposted all over the internet with stories about how a 7-year old is sad. You may not know that it has several other pages in it that are actually better than most of the other 52--and most things this year--put together.

Here are some things that are usually boring in comics that are not boring when they are drawn by Kenneth Rocafort:

-an army base
-army guys
-an establishing shot of a creepy locale
-a night table

Kenneth Rocafort made a night table interesting. Give the kid people in technicolor costumes performing actual actions, he works wonders.

Yes, there are these awful "let the digital colorist handle the rendering on my tits and ass, I'm sure it'll all work out" pages and I'm sure Starfire saying shit like "Those two humans make me laugh, when I can tell them apart" instead of insane drivel like "Love and caring don't leave when you become a hero. They're always a part of life. If anything we can appreciate the good emotions more." (Teen Titans Spolight #19) will corrupt all children everywhere--but if you're not a Clintonite neoconservative there's only one real genuine problem with this comic book:

The Red Hood looks and sounds too much like Deadpool. Who, in turn, looks and sounds too much like Spider-Man.

P.S. If you would like to complain about this comic book, complain to Mandy, not me, I've already done my shift in Explaining Art To Sheltered Parents purgatory and it's now her turn. Trust me, she is eager to discuss the issue with you.


Sweet wild scribbly scratchy unprecedented monsters. SHADE headquarters is amazing. Frankenstein looks badass. This comic rules. Frankenstein quotes Milton instead of Shelley. He has good taste. His boss is a little girl in a domino mask. His wife has 4 arms. He speaks with grim clarity. His mission is clear. Holy fuck Vincent Velcro the vampire from the Creature Commandos is in this comic. Did you know that during World War II the allies were aided by a unit consisting entirely of monsters? Did you know one was a vampire? Did you know this vampire was named Sgt. Vincent Velcro? Did you know that the people who made this comic knew that and brought him back so he could be in it? Now you know that! Oh my god all comics need to be exactly like this. Ok: the mummy is kinda stupid and the fishwoman kinda looks like Abe Sapien, but I never like Cyclops or Longshot either, so whatever. Alberto Ponticelii have my children. If you like weird monster things or things that are good in any way, you should take a look at this. Extremely impressive (and very D&D-able).

Some notes on the 52 in general:

-Jim Lee's Justice League is surrounded by satellite books drawn by several would-be Jim Lees, which is strange: you keep checking to make sure Bush Senior isn't president and the Berlin Wall isn't back up.

-Aside from Batwoman, the Woman-and-Minority Report is kind of gruesome. The most interesting art on a not-white character is Batwing (Africa's Batman!) a character doomed to forever play second fiddle to a white guy if ever there was one one. They use this same make-an-established-white-character-not-white-instead-of-making-an-original-character trick four more times in the new 52: Blue Beetle, Mr Terrific, half of Firestorm and the original experiment-in-planned-obsolescence, Green Lantern John Stewart. (Cursed to always be the second most famous guy with his superhero name and his real name. He must hate Google.) As for the original black guys, Cyborg is in the JLA from the beginning--which is nice--though his new costume seems a little charmless, and the pretty-original(-if-you-don't-count-his-prototype-Black-Lightning) Static gets his own comic again.

Following DC tradition, the female characters get wonderful art on the covers and...also some art inside. And they made the only fat woman skinny. And far be it from me to complain that the only black female character in her own book is an exotic dancer--the only black female on my lease is an exotic dancer--but so far Voodoo is really just some lackluster cheesecake coupled with extensive evidence that neither writer nor artist know what happens in a strip club dressing room. Seems like people would wanna complain about 20-odd pages of that before 2 pages of Starfire.


  1. To be fair, the 20-odd pages of Voodoo came out the week after the Catwoman & Red Hood comics were released, so they had used up all their "sexist" rhetoric the week before and needed to recharge.

  2. It'd be really sweet if all that rhetoric resulted in calls for more female creators or better talent on comics starring women rather than calls for less sex.

  3. Ok, really, I'm done. Really. I swear.

  4. To be fair that actually was the women-in-comics-debacle immediately preceding this one, fan outcry over Dan Didio's clumsy dismissal of a fan asking why there aren't more women on staff in the New 52. Kinda got brushed under the table once the line hit and all the headlines changed to "EVEN MEN OF WAR #1 SOLD OUT, HOLY CRAP." And it's an issue that most of the better comics sites and blogs at least keep in mind, even if their comments sections or message boards or the internet in general could give a damn most of the time.

  5. @Daniel

    ah but i don;t keep up with the comics sites and blogs an only notice shit when it appears in the literary blogs i write for, in my twitter feed, or on House To Astonish.

    Which means puritan lunacy has crossover-nerdrage appeal and reasoned, sane requests for inclusivity don't. Which we knew already.

  6. Zak, did you ever read Umbrella Academy? If you liked Frankenstein, you might well like it. Good art, and the writing is much better than one might expect from the lead singer of a popular beat combo.

  7. @kelvingreen

    meh. Grant Morrison lite with art as cutesy-pop as the band.

  8. I think the main reason people didn't get annoyed about Voodoo but did get annoyed about Starfire is that Voodoo has *always* been like that, whereas the changes to Starfire were changes to a character fans already knew and liked (well, some of them anyway). Now, of course, that's the point of the whole exercise, I suppose, but when you make a change like that you draw attention to it and prompt people to talk about whether it was a good or bad change, whereas with Voodoo it's just business as usual.

  9. @james

    which point I -almost- included in the post myself because it points up the fact that a lot (tho not all) of the fuel behind this issue is just the standard fanboy/girl resistance to change.

  10. If I like Hellboy and B.P.R.D., will I like the Frankenstein comic?

  11. @knightsky

    I certainly like Hellboy and Frankenstein..

    but while the set-up is like Hellboy, the style is more like Doom Patrol. More weird and gonzo than moody and shadowy.

  12. My favorite review of the relaunch was this two-dimensional chart by MightyGodKing.

  13. Frankenstien looks really good i will have to check it out.

    @Zak post from my blog... nonrelated topic but it has a Flaisnail mini i made because i love them like you do.

  14. I'll check out Frankenstein. But I totally agree with the stuff on red hood and batwoman. Animal Man totally came out of nowhere, i thought it was way better than it should have been. Apparently there is supposed to be a cross-over between him and Swampthing which was also pretty good I thought so I'm pretty excited.

  15. @phersv
    My evaluation of the chart is based on the following criteria:

    1) is it a chart?
    2) does it represent criteria that're important to me as a reader?
    3) Is it accurate?

    It does great on criteria 1, but on 2 and 3 it's a mess.


    I give that a 10 based on the following criteria:

    1) Is it awesome?

  16. Did you see Demon Knights? The first issue is a bit long on set-up, but just as the team gets together in a tavern, dragons burst in. So I think it's got an interesting vibe.


  17. @blue gargantua

    I saw the whole 52, so yeah.

    Not really into it. Seemed especially strange that they used traditional comic book coloring in a medieval comic since that has never worked out well in the past and since they have so many other options now.

  18. but while the set-up is like Hellboy, the style is more like Doom Patrol. More weird and gonzo than moody and shadowy.

    If by 'more like Doom Patrol' you're referring to Morrison's run on DP, then that's definitely a selling point for me.

  19. @sekhmet

    "P.S. If you would like to complain about this comic book, complain to Mandy, not me..."

  20. I didn't complain about the book; I pointed out that your reaction didn't track with some of the facts on the ground. If there is a rule about agreeing with everything you say, I did not see it; placing it visibly would have saved me the trouble in attempting civil discourse and you the trouble of scrubbing dissent.

  21. @sekhmet

    1)Quote from you: "I found despicable, in an extra-special way, the all-new fucktoy version of Starfire. " is complaining about the book. If you do not define that as "complaining about the book" then I am confused but do not care so much I need to hear any clarification of it.

    Perhaps you were complaining about it in passing on the way to make your other point. If you did not know that I define that as "complaining" then you know now and we're clear.

    2) I am not scrubbing dissent. I am suggesting you have your conversation with someone who still has energy to have that conversation with you and removing it from here, where it will just encourage more people to talk about it.

    ". . .points up the fact that a lot (tho not all) of the fuel behind this issue is just the standard fanboy/girl resistance to change."

    "Tho not all": your persona; response is not fanboyism.


    "Starfire's writers literally dropped Audience A in favor of Audience B....They could legitimately complain if the changes were excellent and the comic wasn't complete crap." how I define "fanboyism": the belief (for whatever reason) that it is legitimate for an audience to complain about not being given the art they expect or want by an artist or even a company.

    whether or not you think this is acceptable behavior, I call it by the term "fanboyism".


    Clearly we have a disagreement based entirely on the definition of words.

    To the degree this was my fault and not the fault of the vagaries of linguistic communication, I apologize.

    If you would like to have a conversation about how you do not like Starfire or you do thinkt he reaction to her is justified, I sincerely request you have it with Mandy and not me.

    She is more far more articulate than I am, and more enthusiastic to talk to you about this than I am.

    If you continue to talk about her or the reaction to her you, in effect, request a service form me I am not equipped to provide.

  22. To be fair about the "make-an-established-white-character-not-white-instead-of-making-an-original-character trick" three of those characters you mention have been around a while.

    Blue Beetle - 5 years.

    Mister Terrific - 15 years.

    Poor John Stewart - ~30 years.

    So while they may have originated as colored-versions-of-white-characters, they have built some history to differentiate themselves. I really enjoyed Jaime's original Blue Beetle run, my only complaint so far about the new one is it looks like I'll be reading the same story all over again for the next year.

  23. Ok, I should add that I haven't really followed Green Lantern stuff all that much. John Stewart does suffer from being very similar to Hal Jordan painted with darker skin tones.

    On the other hand, Mister Terrific was a relaunch of an old golden age character most people have never even read. I am fairly certain his story and characterization is unique compared to his predecessor. The only thing he really does is revive a long dead name. Of course, I wasn't at all impressed with his #1 as it was terribly paced and had awkward transitions. But the character itself has potential, I always enjoyed him in the JSA book.

    Jaime as Blue Beetle may have inherited the name, but he's definitely his own character. He's not a carbon copy of a rich white guy with toys who was always a carbon copy of another more famous rich white guy with toys. (I enjoyed Ted Kord, but it's hard to see how he wasn't just a blue less broody Batman.)

  24. @deinol

    I fail to see how the fact they are old improves it.

    The original Mr Terrific has to be the lamest character in history so why would you bring him back at all even if you -were- writing JSA and the coolness-other-than-the-Gredel-rifpoff-mask elements of Jaime Reyes form a powerful argument they coulda just made a new character with a new name.

  25. unrelated

    these minis are awesome

  26. If you're interested, Animal Man has some more of the same, some more blatant weirdness, and then Buddy and his daughter go on a sort of spirit-quest in physical space; Frankenstein has Velcro and the werewolf as kind of like the two goons from the Hidden Fortress, we get Babe Sapien's origin, and the show is stolen by barbarian Frankenstein fighting sea monsters next to a portal to hell; Batwoman still a really pretty comic.

  27. @daniel

    As long as the art stays the same, I'll keep reading whatever happens.

  28. There's a good argument to be made that John Stewart is the most recognisable Green Lantern to normal people as a result of the Justice League animated series.

    Not sure if that's relevant -- probably not -- but there it is.

  29. @kelvin

    I agree that it was possible they could've eventually got rid of all memory of Hal--but not any more--not after the movie and bringing him back in the comics. maybe in 15 years. but there's so many comics you can sell by bringing back old chratcer i doubt it'll tke.