justice_league_21_cover_20132004591921Captain Marvel occupies a strange place in the superhero comics world, in that he is a character that occupies about a thousand places in a million different fans’ hearts.

He is simultaneously the Big Red Cheese who fought talking mescal worms with his gentleman tiger Tawky Tawny, while he is also the generic 1970s superhero who rode around the desert in a Winnebago punching dudes and talking to a big nipply globe on the dashboard, and at the same time he is the horribly damaged and tragic character who beat Superman to a standstill before sacrificing himself to save the world in Kingdom Come. Hell, there are times when I can’t think of the character without remembering my early 2000s drunken tirade that Dan DiDio should give Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham a million bucks a piece to complete their Miracleman story using Captain Marvel, since Miracleman was never anything but a royalty dodge on The Big Red Cheese anyway.

My point is, each version of Captain Marvel means something to somebody, and paying service to one means that you stand a real chance of alienating fans of the others. Slap a big C. C. Beck smile on Captain Marvel’s face and the Kingdom Come fans think you’re yanking their chain. Make him tortured over the adult horrors he’s witnessed as a superhero and you piss off the fans of the childlike original. Put him in a Winnebago out in the middle of the desert with a creepy old dude and you’ll never see the outside of a jail cell again.

This was the line that writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were trying to negotiate with their Shazam backup story in Justice League for the past several months. And to be honest, when it started, I thought they botched it; Billy Batson was a petulant little bastard who I would have rather seen get scabies than superpowers. But that, however, was a while ago. This month’s Justice League #21 is devoted to the conclusion of the Shazam story… so the question is, not that it’s all said and done, who did Johns and Franks piss off?

Really, probably nobody. There’s enough elements of the classic kids’ Captain Marvel here to at least pay service to those fans, and enough modern realism so that he doesn’t stick out from the New 52 continuity. And the conclusion is, in fact, really pretty good. Not perfect, but fun enough to be worth the ride.

Although the people hoping for RVs and “Mentors” are gonna be furious… but seriously, fuck those people.


justice_league_15_cover_2012Since last year’s New 52 relaunch, Geoff Johns has made it his personal mission to rehabilitate Aquaman’s reputation. Which is a somewhat Quixotic task, since Aquaman never had much of a reputation to begin with. I remember years ago, when superhero Underoos were finally released for sale, my mom brought me to the store late enough that all that were left were Aquaman Underoos… and I told her that I would rather parade around the schoolyard in tightie-whities than suffer the indignity of having to pretend to be Aquaman. I was 28. But that’s not the point.

But hey, everyone has an unlikely dream that they harbor deep in their hearts, and I don’t begrudge Johns his, even though I don’t think he’s quite delivered on it thus far. Hey, I have the secret fantasy that someday I, a bloated and drunken 41-year-old, can smack the home run that wins the Boston Red Sox their third World Series victory since 1918 despite never having played even Little League baseball, so I’m not gonna rank Johns out too much for his dream to make Aquaman cool, despite it arguably having a lower chance at success than mine.

After fifteen months of chasing the dragon, Johns has begin phase two of his unlikely Aquaman resuscitation (actually, given Aquaman’s inability to carry his own book for longer than seven years despite more than 70 years of history, perhaps “presuscitation” is a better word) by making Aquaman the focus of a big Justice League event, Throne of Atlantis. So finally, Johns has his main chance to give Aquaman some relevance, not only in his own title but in the DC Universe proper, by making the poor, fishfucking sonofabitch the focus of a story… but for it to work, the story better be a good one.


Editor’s Note: In Crisis On Infinite Midlives, super-heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result is spoilers that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as ruined as, well, yesterday.

I want to start out by stipulating that Batman: Earth One, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, is a damn fine graphic novel in almost every way. It takes characters and situations from the long history of the world of Batman and re-imagines then in ways that are generally compelling, interesting and ingenious. It adds a real-world feel to Batman that, while robbing the character of some of the most thrilling and stylized elements of the finest Batman tales, also grounds it and makes the stakes for Batman and everyone else in the story feel higher. And interestingly, it provides complete-feeling and satisfying story and character arcs for more than one character… Batman not necessarily being one of them. And the art is realistic and spectacularly detailed, to boot.

With that said, there are two character moments in this graphic novel that I had significant problems with, to the point where I feel that they irretreivably changed the nature of the character. For the better? Fucked if I know. It really depends on how much of a traditionalist you are… or how much you like Spider-Man. But we’ll get to that in a minute.


Justice League #7 is a weird fucking book. On one hand, it gives us a classic superhero team book… one might say that it’s so classic you’ve been reading it for years. And on the other hand, it gives a reimagined and modernized take on a classic hero, updating him by way of making you want to see him die screaming under a city bus. And on both hands, writer Geoff Johns shows us that superheroes are just like us: dicks. Selfish, irritating dicks.

Let’s start with the opening story, which opens with the Justice League in combat with with Isz. Seriously – on the very first page, we’re presented with what looks exactly like a black Isz from The Maxx if Sam Kieth had days upon end to ink them. Which is, in certain ways, a decent enough choice; God knows if I turned a corner and saw a bunch of those bastards swarming, I’d shit my pants. However, this is a comic book, and any comics fan older than 22 is probably gonna open this book and say, “Huh. That’s an Isz,” which started the book on it’s back foot for me right out of the gate.

In short order, we are reintroduced to Colonel Steve Trevor: manly-man soldier and leader of A.R.G.U.S., the Advanced Research Group Uniting Superhumans. This organization appears to be some kind of combination Government-sponsored supervillain armed response agency and liason to the DCU’s superhero community. And Trevor himself is portrayed as an ultra-competent yet cranky former soldier who has learned to kick ass and navigate Congressional committees without compromise. This kind of character is relatively new to the DC Universe, and would be an exciting development if it weren’t an eyepatch and the likeness of Samuel L. Jackson away from a crippling plagiarism lawsuit. Really, guys? Colonel Trevor, Agent of A.R.G.U.S.? What’s his next exciting adventure gonna be, pulling Uncle Sam from the Freedom Fighters out of a fucking iceburg?


DC Comics debuted a teaser image of the Gary Frank-redesigned Shazam (née Captain Marvel) in this morning’s New York Post. I’m guessing that writer / DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns decided that the redesign of a niche character who’s been unable to carry his own book for around 20 years, and who’s appearing as a backup feature in Justice League, was news too earthshattering to relegate to the ghetto of the comics-related press… and further guessing that the Post ran with it due to a need to fill column inches thanks to a sudden unexpected dearth of Lindsay Lohan candid upskirt vagina pictures.


A couple months ago, DC Comics announced that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank would be putting together a reboot of Captain Marvel as a backup feature in Justice League starting in issue 7 in March. Which, as an old school Captain Marvel fan dating back to that horrible CBS TV show back in the mid-70s, this was exciting news… provided the thing actually got done in time. After all, this is the same team that announced the Batman: Earth One original graphic novel… more than two years ago (Although to be fair, it is supposedly pretty much done and will be released sometime soon).

But the good news is that it looks like the work is coming in on schedule, because Newsarama scored some uncolored and unlettered pages from the first ten-page installment:


DC’s Justice League panel at the New York Comic Con was held earlier today – well, they called it the “Justice League” panel, but it pretty much had every creator on the New 52 except for Scott Lobdell, who rumor has it was unavilable due to a prior commitment to be in a fetal position, rocking, crying and ignoring the constant ring of the telephone.

There were a ton of revelations in the panel, one of which being that DC didn’t open the panel to questions from the audience until more than halfway through, which is a MAJOR departure from the DC panels we’ve see at SDCC since 2006, where Dan DiDio has historically said, “This is a panel about INSERT SUBJECT HERE! Let’s take questions!” Thanks again, San Diego Batgirl!

But one of the other bigger revelations was that DC is rebooting and relaunching Captain Marvel.