Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On The Shelf: A few random news items

There are quite a few comics characters from the Golden Age that hadn't had a regular home in recent years for one reason or another. Dynamite Entertainment is doing something about it.

First, they gathered some characters like Black Bat and Miss Fury as part of a pair of Masks miniseries, co-starring the Green Hornet and the Shadow a few years back. Those were fun to read. Ten years ago, Dynamite introduced Project Superpowers, which presented more forgotten heroes who were now in the public domain, like, for example, the Fighting Yank. The third volume of Project Superpowers launched with a 10 cent 0 issue 2 weeks ago, and is a good jumping-on point for readers discovering this on-again, off-again series for the first time. That's all I can say for right now, considering that the low price also brought with it a smaller page count. Issue 1 drops on August 1.

Grade: Incomplete.
Max Allan Collins is the executor of the estate of crime novelist Mickey Spillane, and, as such, has access to unfinished manuscripts of Mike Hammer by the legendary Spillane. A brand new Hammer mini dropped from Titan Books 2 weeks ago as well, and the painted artwork is just flat out gorgeous to behold. Predictably, someone's out to whack Hammer, and he's looking to get to the killer first.

Rating: A.
Archie Comics, after teasing the return of the Superteens in the pages of Jughead a couple of years ago, finally brought the heroic personas of Jug, Archie, Betty, and, yes, Veronica, in a 2-part miniseries that sees them teaming with, and briefly fighting, The Mighty Crusaders, the company's premier superteam of the 60's. It's just 2 issues, and the Crusaders' membership includes the Black Hood. This Hood is in the original black & yellow gear, so it's probably Kip Burland under the mask, not Greg Hettinger, who was introduced in the Dark Circle series 3 years ago. Given how Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has corrupted the Hood and mishandled him on Riverdale, a heroic Hood is a welcome sight. Co-author Ian Flynn wrote a zillion Sonic The Hedgehog stories for Archie over the course of 20-plus years, and, while Archie & co. are drawn as they have been of late, this is fun.

Not only that, but the transformation sequences for the Superteens look like they were ripped off from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, dating back to 1993. At least it's better than PH factors and other goofy ideas 50 years ago....!

Rating: Incomplete. We'll talk more about this when the conclusion hits stores in 2 weeks.
Speaking of Archie, the current Archie series launched in 2015 will end with issue 32, out now. In September, there will be a short miniseries set during the Golden Age, but written with modern sensibilities. Also, dropping later this month is Archie Meets Batman '66, which answers the question of what pop culture icon would the campy caped crusader would meet next.

At the end of the year, however, Archie will do what DC & Marvel have done for milestone issues in recent years, and will tie up all the current storylines in Archie #699, with issue 700 kicking off a new run, written by controversial writer Nick Spencer, the new scribe for Marvel's Amazing Spider-Man. I think the idea is that Aguirre-Sacasa wants the core Archie book to be geared more toward Riverdale in terms of direction, but not quite as dark. Here's a better idea, Roberto. Why don't you take some time, figure out fans are waiting for the next issues of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina & Afterlife With Archie (it's been a year), and assign a writer like Spencer to the books so they can be back on the shelves. Then you can spend all the time you want shuttling between Vancouver (where Riverdale is shot) and Hollywood. Is that too much to ask?

As for Spencer, he's looking to undo Joe Quesada's ill-advised decision to end Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane Watson in the books (they're still married in the daily comic strip). Quesada made a lot of enemies when he made that move a decade ago.

As if that wasn't bad enough, DC's Dan DiDio, derisively known as DiDiot to some fans, has a similar archaic policy, which explains why Batman & Catwoman's wedding didn't come off as planned last week. Two years or so ago, DiDio did the same thing over in Batwoman, unwilling to take a chance on a same-sex marriage of the title heroine and Gotham PD's Maggie Sawyer (who was brought to life by actress Floriana Lima during seasons 2 & 3 of Supergirl as a love interest for Alex Danvers, played by Chyler Leigh), and that storyline was squelched. Since Marvel broke the ice with same-sex marriage over in X-Men a few years ago, you'd think this wouldn't be happening, but I think DiDio is more afraid of offending retailers in the Bible Belt, while Marvel clearly wasn't.

Batman writer Tom King is unfairly being maligned online, and it's not his fault. The 50th issue of his run, which came out last week, is being looked at now as a cash grab by DC's marketing department, knowing they were really doing what amounted to a bait & switch, something Marvel had done in X-Men Gold two weeks earlier. Marvel promised that Kitty Pryde would marry her on-again, off-again flame, Peter "Colossus" Rasputin, but backed off of that and instead married off Gambit (Remy Lebeau) and Rogue, spinning them off into Mr & Mrs. X, due in the fall.

At least Marvel had a fall-back plan. DC didn't. Their loss.

Finally, belated condolences to the family, assuming there was one left, of comics icon Steve Ditko, who passed away nearly 2 weeks ago at 90. Ditko's resume includes co-creating Spider-Man and Dr. Strange for Marvel, The Creeper, The Hawk & The Dove, and Shade The Changing Man for DC, and, at Charlton, he helped introduce future DC heroes Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, & The Question. Ditko's political views led to the development of independently published characters like Mr. A, but Ditko's distinctive art style began to change during the 70's, when his work regularly appeared at DC, Charlton, & Marvel.

It's amazing, really, that Stan Lee, who wrote all those Dr. Strange & Spidey stories for Ditko, will have outlived all of his primary artists (i.e. Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gil Kane). If Stan lives to be 100, that should be news all by itself.

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