vision_7_cover_2016It has been a stone bummer of a week when it comes to comic news. From the tragic loss of Darwyn Cooke to DC Comics having to release a statement on sexual harassment in the face of protests over allegations about Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza, there haven’t been a lot of smiles in comics this week. Hell, when the most welcome news is that Supergirl was renewed and only has to reduce their budget and expatriate to Canada, you’re not talking a barrel of laughs.

But these things all happened, so we talk about them. Particularly the DC Comics harassment issue, as one of us was once harassed in the manner and circumstances in which Berganza is accused of harassing someone back in 2012, and therefore we wanted to share our perspective on it.

But we hate dwelling on negatives in our favorite hobby, so we spend more time than usual talking about actual comics this week, discussing:

  • Southern Bastards #14, written by Jason Aaron with art by Jason Latour,
  • The Vision #7, written by Tom King with art by Michael Walsh,
  • Starfire #12, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Elsa Charretier, and
  • Powers #6, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Michael Avon Oeming!

And, the disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. We will ruin the ending of the latest Powers story line for you… but then again, since it’s been seven months since the last issue, you probably don’t remember how the story line started.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and therefore is not safe for work. Sure, the concept of a “kitten chaser” sounds benign, but do you want to risk your employment on it? Didn’t think so. Buy earphones.

Thanks for listening, suckers!

tmp_sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_teaser_poster_1_2013-1733579567It is the middle of Labor Day weekend, which means that things are slow in the world of comics news, and fast in the world of drinking whiskey to forget you still have a job to go to on Tuesday.

So Amanda and I use this lull to idly speculate who might be a good casting choice for Doctor Strange in the upcoming Phase 3 Marvel movie. And not only that, but we got ourselves out to see the currently-in-theaters Sin City: A Dame To Kill For adaptation of Frank Miller’s hard boiled crime comics… and we had remarkably different reactions to the flick. Specifically regarding Eva Green’s casting as Ava Lord, Eva Green’s ability to portray Ava Lord, and Eva Green’s qualifications as an actress beyond the ability of some of her bodily appendages to defy constant gravitational forces. We also talk about the other parts of the movie.

We also discuss:

  • All-Star Western #34, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Darwyn Cooke, and
  • Silver Surfer #5, written by Dan Slott with pencils by Mike Allred!

And now the disclaimers:

  • We record this show live to tape. While this might mean a somewhat looser comics podcast than you are used to, it also means anything can happen. Like discussions about new supervillain Whistle Pig.
  • This show contains spoilers. While we try to shout out warnings before spilling secrets, be on notice that spoilers can happen at any time.
  • Amanda and I use explicit, adult language, and therefore this show is not safe for work. Before listening without headphones, please see the earlier note about the discussion vis a vis Eva Green’s bodily appendages. Get some headphones.

Enjoy the show, suckers!

So, in honor of the Batman 75th anniversary, this Batman Beyond short by Darwyn Cooke was just screened out at WonderCon in Anaheim today:

Clever homage to all the various Batmen from the past 75 years. I particularly like the robot Adam West Batman at 1:06.


Today being Easter, the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office has been traveling to see family and encountering some…automotive issues. Pop quiz – a car don’t really need a roof, right? We’re hoping to keep the podcast streak alive, though. Tune in tomorrow to see if we make the cast a three-fer. Meanwhile, happy Zombie Jesus and Related Chocolate Bunny Needs Day!

minutemen_6_cover“Such sad music. The saddest thing I can imagine…

Ironically, I’d spent the last week editing my book for the sake of my old friends…I gave everyone what they wanted: a sunny remembrance. I realized that carrying all that horror inside me was a small price to pay…

The book was a smash and because it was the only real accounting of our careers, it became the truth…

…’It’ll never be like it was when it was new, but there’s still plenty of life in this old baby.'”

-Hollis Mason, Minutemen #6

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to work at DC Comics in 2013.

There you are, at one of the inarguable pinnacles of the comic book industry. You’re working for one of the Big Two, making the best page rates available in the American comics industry, working on some of the highest profile books there are. You never have to buy your own drinks at any comic convention in the civilized world, and thousands upon thousands of aspiring creators envy you your day-to-day existence… and yet it is, where the rubber hits the road, a job. You have a boss, and you call him and he or she tells you what you are going to be working on, and you have a choice: you either do it, regardless of how inane or Sisyphean your assigned task is… or you don’t, and hope that you can keep working in your little niche without being singled out and fired.

Put on top of that the particular an individual realities of DC Comics today: you work for a company that, less than 18 months ago, blew up the underpinnings of all their books in the interest of saving them, despite being only a year or so out of Blackest Night, which put more asses in DC Comics’s panels at San Diego Comic-Con than I’d ever seen before. And since that demolition, the company has busily spent its time examining every element of those new books under a microscope, reportedly making last-minute changes and nitpicks every step of the way, causing several high-profile creators to defect to Marvel. Management has mandated new directions and has then apparently fired people when the new directions are seemingly not the right new directions, with boss-favorite creators being given the assignments in the aftermath… and all of it under the daily direction of Bob Harras, the Editor In Chief who was Marvel’s Editor In Chief during the late 1990s. So you’re working under the sure and steady hand of a man committed to raising sales at any cost – and if that cost is cancelling a book, revamping any character, or demanding a crossover, character rape or supporting character murder, so be it… all while in the back of your head, you’re hearing things like, “Clooonnnneeeee Sagaaa…. Chrooooommmiummmm covvverrrrss…”

Now let’s imagine you are one of the creators assigned to the Before Watchmen project: a project that almost no one in comics fandom wanted, if they weren’t actively opposed to it. A project that, by its very existence, implied a comic publisher that was willing to actively and enthusiastically fuck over one of its (former) A-List creators in the interest of making a little money right fucking now, long term consequences be damned. And let’s say you are asked to work on one of these Before Watchmen books while employed by a company where you can see your fellow creators being fired by email, or having their books yanked to make an opening so that one of the Golden Boys can write a book starring fucking Vibe: what do you do?

Well, if you’re Darwyn Cooke, you write a final issue of Minutemen where the narrator makes a terrible mistake, writes the truth about it as best he can while allowing himself to be bullied into severely editing himself for the good of the people around him, and makes the decision to walk away from the whole mess, so that the people foolish enough to follow him can have their chance at things.

I might be – hell, I probably am – reading too much into Minutemen #6, but as a comic book? It could make one hell of a resignation letter.

Simply put, and without question: Silk Spectre #2 is the best issue of Before Watchmen so far.

It does everything you’d expect from a Watchmen prequel book, particularly one that isn’t endorsed by the original creators: it follows the original book’s visual, nine-panel format, it pays homage to Moore’s original writing style of having the words directly reflect the visuals in the panel, and it expands the Watchmen universe by exploring niche, side subjects that it would never occur to me to wonder about until I saw those explorations here. By mining the original work’s edges while paying tribute to its written and drawn style, it does what a prequel should do: build upon the original without superceding it. It is the first Before Watchmen book that I plainly and simply liked.

I expected things to be a little more contentious than they wound up being at DC Comics’s Before Watchmen panel yesterday.

After all, this is Comic-Con. It is packed to the gills with rabid fanboys and fangirls, many of whom were swirlied in junior high school (Hi, Paul Jameson! I make a comfortable living in the software industry now! How’s that A in woodshop treating you, fucker?) and now that they have strength in numbers, are itching for a fight. This convention has fundraisers for Jack Kirby, panels dedicated to pointing out the injustice of Bill Finger not getting enough credit for co-creating Batman, and a panel called The Most Dangerous Women in Comics. It is a place where a lone nut in a Batgirl suit can change the course of an entire comics company, and come back the next year bearing gifts for the creators and none for the thousand or so paying customers whose convention experience she fucked with last year in order to further a personal agenda. In short: this is Angry Fanboy Central, and if there was a place for them to show their colors, it was this panel.

But that didn’t happen. Sure, the panel started a little bit late, and the whole Quentin Tarantino announcement smack in the middle sucked up some question time, so maybe the slavering, angry, “You fucked Alan Moore!” guy just didn’t get his turn at the microphone. The people who did get a turn were generally really enthusiastic about the whole Before Watchmen project; one fan flat-out said that he was one of those “keyboard commandos” who ranted against the whole project, but wound up really getting sucked into it. Hell, the entire Alan Moore elephant in the room was only addressed once by anyone in the crowd… and it was a guy who was hoping that DC could get Moore to work on a Watchmen sequel.

How’d that turn out? Well, let’s watch!

I will say this about Silk Spectre #1, written by Darwyn Cooke with art by Amanda Conner: these are two artists who are bringing their A Game to the very possibly losing proposition of Before Watchmen.

This is a book that, at least generally, looks like Watchmen, reads more like Watchmen than Cooke’s Minutemen (which reads more like a standard DC superhero comic, only with Hooded Justice as Batman and Nite Owl as Batman and Captain Metropolis as Batman), and embraces the character-over-action ethos of Watchmen, and what action is here is visceral and real-feeling, as it generally did in its parent book.

The book features a relatable and believable sixteen year old female protagonist, and a believable character in her mother, provided you believe that any WASPy community middle-1960s suburban community would accept a Polish former softcore porn star and her Jewish husband… but it also portrays that community being intolerant of the “family” in a way that feels realistic… for 1966. If it took place anytime after 1988, Sally Jupiter’s house would be surrounded by teenaged boys with copies of She Devils In Silk whimpering for an autograph and praying she understood that “autograph” was shorthand for “handjob.” But I digress.

My point is that, God help me, Silk Spectre #1 is a good comic book. However, it is a good comic book that takes place in the Watchmen universe, and I’m not sure my prejudices in favor of the original will ever allow me to rank one of these Before Watchmen books as great.

Minutemen, the first issue of the first book of Before Watchmen, by Darwyn Cooke, will, if it’s done even remotely correctly, be impossible to review objectively and completely until all six issues have been released. I say this, because after having read it four times back to back now, I went back and read just the first issue of Alan Moore’s and David Gibbons’s original Watchmen, and I realized that it is impossible for me to read that issue objectively because all I know is the complete work.

Here’s just a quick example of what I’m talking about: in the first issue of Watchmen, there’s a panel right after Rorschach leaves Dr. Manhattan and Laurie, where Laurie is on the phone with Dan Dreiberg, and in the foreground, Dr. Manhattan is smiling. Having read the whole series, I understand that Manhattan, who can see through time like Dr. Who or a common mescaline head, is smiling because he knows that Laurie will wind up with Dan and find happiness. There is no way I could know that having read just the first issue.

So when I see things in Minutemen #1 like Hooded Justice somehow disappearing a goon on one side of a block-wide warehouse, and then somehow within instants moving unseen to the other side of the block-wide warehouse and stalking across a catwalk up to the remaining goon, making the goon piss himself in abject terror as if Hooded Justice were Angry Jesus as opposed to a stocky BDSM freak in a homemade lucha libre outfit just fucking walking toward him, I need to calm my standard, “This is a Thing That Should Not Be” rage and remind myself that Cooke might have a goal for this story that is not currently apparent. And hopefully that goal is something beyond, “I like lots of money.”

A hair late on this news, but DC Comics has announced the release dates for the first four issues of Before Watchmen. Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke, Silk Spectre by Cooke and Amanda Connor, Comedian by Brian Azzarello and J. G. Jones, and Nite Owl by J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert will all drop on June 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th respectively… although if DC really wanted to announce that kind of decisive action, they should have gotten Dan DiDio to stand in front of a bank of flat-screens and say, “I released them thirty-five minutes ago.”

The books will be $3.99 a pop, or $4.99 for the digital combo pack if you want your childhood… shall we say affected… on your tablet, phone or computer. You can see the covers to these first four issues after the jump.

In a truly weird article reeking of cognitive dissonance, Fast Company’s Co.Create, which is a Web site that is not about comics, debuted exclusive new Darwyn Cooke art from the upcoming Before Watchmen book The Minutemen, while simultaneously debuting new comments from Alan Moore complaining that the Before Watchmen project should die on the vine, or in a chute, or really anywhere, preferably with Moore pulling the trigger.

“It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity. It’s a finite series,” says Moore. “Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises. Comic shops these days barely sell comics. It’s mostly spin-offs and toys.

Hmm… that’s not what I witness every Wednesday at my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to quit asking if they carry inflatable Power Girl dolls. What I do witness are a bunch of middle-aged guys with lucrative day jobs who can afford to buy a stack of three and four dollar comics, but that’s a different issue for the industry. Everyone knows that a product that targets only old white guys is destined to rocket to the top of any sales chart… provided your product is named Cialis. But I digress.