My views on Batman 17 and DOTF.

With all the talk about Batman 17, and after listening to the most recent podcast today, I want to air my view of the issue, the story arc, Snyder's Batman, and storytelling in comics in a more general sense.

Firstly, whatever you feel about 17 and DOTF, we must recognize that having fans react so strongly in any way is a mark of honor for the storytellers and it's something that ought to be commended. Any time a comic can completely divide and polarize the fan base is really a good time for comics--it gets us talking and thinking about how stories are told in comics and it's usually the time when most of us bare our true colors in terms of our passion and love for the characters.

Secondly, I don't think anyone can deny that DOTF has been a wild ride and a great Batman tale. Surely, years from now, we will look back upon Snyder and Capullo's run and talk about this story. Do I think this is Snyder's best arc? No; so far, The Black Mirror still reigns from on high for me. Do I think it's better than 90% of the books DC has put out in the past ~2 years? Absolutely. Is Greg Capullo the best penciller working today? Quite possibly. There's also the matter of Snyder-fanboyism. A lot of people are starting to throw around the notion that Snyder is overhyped and that certain comic book reviewers have conflated their personal feelings with Mr. Snyder with their professional opinions of his work. I won't address the latter part, because frankly, we'll never know if that's the case and it's really none of my business--or anyone elses--to simply speculate; let's give the professional reviewers the benefit of the doubt here. They definitely deserve it. I, personally, do not believe Snyder to be the best writer right now, but he certainly holds a spot in the top 5. My complaints with his work are not many, but I do have certain reservations about his work that don't allow him to occupy the number 1 spot in my list. The major issue that I have is that a lot of his work is thematically redundant. For example, every time a new story is being hyped up by the DC propaganda machine, Snyder is always recorded in interviews saying something very similar to "'s going to be twisted/frightening/dark/etc..." Twisted and dark is his thing, I get that. That's what he does best, and honestly, I wouldn't want to read anyone else for that type of stuff. But, there's a certain point where that type of story becomes overdone and unnecessary. Snyder has been doing dark and twisted in Gotham since he started The Black Mirror--save for maybe a single issue, which featured Harper Row--and I do at times yearn to see what else he has in his tool bag. At this point, no one is really sure if he can do any other type of story and execute it well. I'm not saying I want any Batman story to be light-hearted or anything like that. But I think it would be interesting to see where Snyder can take Batman outside of what scares Bruce and what brings out his weaknesses. Batman is a character with so many dimensions, and if you take a long look at the whole of Snyder's run so far, a lot of it is focused on examining a very narrow portion of the character in a fun house mirror. I want more. I want to see how Snyder invisions Batman in totality. I'm counting on the Riddler story that he's got planned to bring out Batman's intellectual side, and I'm looking forward to the future to see what other aspects of Batman's character Snyder can tease out in the months ahead.

As for the events of 17, I think it's unfair and stupid to say that nothing happened, and I don't really want to have a conversation about whether or not something did or didn't happen or whether or not fans were purposefully misled. We don't need physical death in comics in order for something to be a big deal. The very notion that we do is hobbling to the industry and, as fans, we should be insulted by any reliance on the "comic book death." We should demand that writers stive for more mature and hard-hitting stories; stories that move us in ways that the death of a character could never do. And that's what Snyder has done with DOTF. He deserves much commendation for trying to break the mold.

The final moments of 17 disturbed me deeply. I was left thinking about them long after I closed the book and I found myself enamored by what the Joker did. In a lot of ways, it shows the worst parts of a sadistic man, and all the faults that Batman possesses as a character. Bruce is so badly emotionally damaged, and to see that be his ultimate downfall here is something very, very disturbing.

That said, I wanted nothing more than to have Batman kill the Joker in 17. I thought it would be the perfect beat for the story to take and it would introduce possibly years of new, interesting stories into the Batman mythos. When he said "No. Not like this. Not by accident." when Joker came to the cliff, my heart dropped, and I smiled a bit. I was rooting for Batman to do what he has never been able to do. I wanted him to pull the Joker off the edge and beat him to death with his bare hands in a fit of rage; the ultimate show of weakness and strength all at the same time.

But, it never happened. Instead, Batman did what no man would ever do in the face of such tragedy and emotional havoc. He totally gave up. He completely lost his nerve and as a consequence, it came off--to me--as a total moment of weakness and cowardice. How could anyone look to a man that not only allows a murdering psychopath to live and torture his loved ones, but actually saves him from certain death? This was such a disappointing moment for me in terms of how I view Batman as a hero. I completely lost faith in him.

Perhaps I'm too violent a man. Maybe I want my heroes to take vengeance rather than justice. But, whatever the case, I saw Bruce's inability to put the Joker down like a rabid dog as a fatal flaw. On the podcast, the conversation was about how Batman killing Joker would have been a show of weakness, and something that would make for interesting stories. And, to a certain extent, I agree. However, I think there's something to be said for it being a show of absolute strength as well. It would be Batman breaking his own personal code for the safety of his family. It would have been a man doing what he had to do, and Batman's most relateable characteristic is that he is just a man. Instead, we see Batman completely wimp out, and show his hand as an emotionally damaged man without the capability to handle the threats that he faces for real.

One more thing I want to touch on is something Tony said. That if Batman were to kill Joker, it would lead to a domino effect of him just killing other enemies. I disagree. If a man kills someone--especially with just cause, in defense of his loved ones--that doesn't make him automatically someone who will kill again. If someone broke into your home and you killed him in self defense, are you going to now go out and murder other criminals at night? Not likely. There's no reason why Bruce couldn't have killed the Joker in cold blood and not be turned into the Punisher.

Think of all the interesting stories that could be told with Batman trying to deal with crossing that line. The possibilities are endless. However, I don't let my disappointment in Batman ruin the consequences of the issue for me. I think Joker having driven a wedge between Bruce and the rest of the family is deliciously evil and I'm excited to see the fallout. However, I think all of that could have remained the same and hit harder and closer to home if Batman had actually done what any man would do.


Tim's (non)growth in The New 52...

Tim Drake hasn't been able to embrace a solo identity the way Dick did with Nightwing. Why? He was surely about to in the pre-Flashpoint Red Robin series, but the great majority of that book built upon the idea that Tim was Red Robin because he had to be in order to find Bruce, and it wasn't until the very last arc where we actually saw Tim getting comfortable with his new role. And, of course, the cancellation and rebooting didn't help matters; in the New 52, it seems Tim has remained a stagnant character, unable to really continue in his evolution to a solo hero.

When I originally heard that Tim would be in the Titans book, I knew that this would happen. However, I soon became hopeful that Tim's characterization would develop and he'd be allowed to mature within the Titans book, because, frankly, there's no reason why that shouldn't be possible. After reading the first few issues (full disclosure: I stopped reading the book at issue 6), it became clear that Tim's character was not going to receive any of the exploration that I think he deserves. The main reason for this is that, like many DC characters, he's been stripped of many of the things that made him unique and interesting.

The main thing lost in DCnU Titans is the camaraderie--the feeling that these characters (sidekicks most of them) have grown up together and are constantly trying to be these larger-than-life people while struggling with woes of being young. Making it so that the Titans were brought together for the first time in issue 1 strips them of their charm as a team. Conner and Tim's relationship is just a much-worse version of the same problem. These two characters had been through so much together and had such a strong friendship that it became part of who they were and was reflected well in solo titles (see Red Robin (pre-FP) and Adventure Comics).

Tim has also suffered from the ambiguity surrounding his relationship with Batman in the New 52. The connections that have been provided has been very superficial and, for the most part, felt cheap and poorly done. There's been very little attempt to lay out a specific timeline for the Bat-universe and to make it known where which characters fit in and how they got where they are today, but Tim has fared the worst out of the group because of this. He's the one that barely feels like he is, or ever was, a part of the Bat-family and the lack of a strong connection to Bruce renders his character generic and boring.

Like many characters in The New 52, Tim's history and characterization has been totally boiled down to the point of making the character seem unfamiliar and unremarkable. This is the result of a total lack of backstory, which in itself is a result of a destruction of the shared history of the DCU. To give credit where credit is due, I do feel like his personality traits have been preserved--certainly better than some other DC characters.

However, Tim is different from many others in that he was just coming into his own when the DCU was rebooted. We were in this period of immense growth and in the midst of watching Tim come into his own in the same way that we watched Dick become Nightwing, and the reboot seems to have totally stunted that growth and damaged the character. Before the reboot, Tim had a reason to strike out on his own. He had a motivation to out-grow the Robin identity that went well beyond Dick telling him he was taking on Damian. His search for Bruce molded him into a man and he came face-to-face with many of his 'demons' during the journey. For three years (2009-2011), readers watched as Tim was launched into a situation which he didn't know how to handle, and we watched him adapt, make the hard choices, and become a true hero in his own right, and--more importantly--he proved himself to be the heir to the throne of greatest detective. His role as Batman's apprentice had come full-circle, and instead of capitalizing on that, DC washed it all away, instead opting to make Tim into a generic 'smart kid' and leader of a team of youngsters. Its a total devolution of the character and real shame.

Will we ever see Tim grow into his role in The New 52 the way we did in the old DCU? Probably not, or at least not until (1) the universe is rebooted, or (2) a lot of time passes. My hope is that we'll see more of Tim in the Bat-books and get some decent character development there (Kyle Higgins will be writing him in Nightwing soon, so hopefully he'll do him justice), and maybe we'll get a solo title with a good writer to explore Tim's character, even if it has to be within the confines of the The New 52 universe.


The downfall of the emerald archer...

I've made very clear my opinions on The New 52 before, but I've centered most of my arguments and/or complaints around the Bat-family and related titles. I've always been a Batman fan through-and-through, so that's probably the reason why; however, there's a character that I've always loved that's getting a really crappy treatment in the reboot that I've yet to really speak on: Green Arrow.

Every once in a while I'll pick up the Green Arrow book--I suppose in total I've read 5 or 6 of the new issues--and each time I'm more disappointed than the last. That's not saying much given that fact that I hated even the first issue. Ollie's already had a creative shift--which did nothing to help the miserable situation that is the Green Arrow title--and, so far, his strongest appearance has been in Justice League recently. This doesn't bold well for the book or Green Arrow as a character. How long until Green Arrow is canceled? And, worse, when it is, what will come of Green Arrow as a character?

The sad part is that we're not talking about a character that has never held his own ongoing, or one that doesn't have a strong fan-following: Green Arrow is a beloved hero in many circles and has had numerous long-running series that have a left their mark on comic book history (The Longbow Hunters, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Winick's run) and has been involved in nearly all the important events in the DCU (although, one should ask: do they even matter anymore?).

So how is it that such a strong and well-storied character has gotten such a dismal treatment in The New 52? The obvious answer is that he's been changed too drastically. However, this is somewhat of a cop-out. There's absolutely no reason why Ollie couldn't have undergone drastic changes and still hold a good, solid series. Would this be ideal? Not in my mind, no. But it's not out of the realm of possibility. Instead of telling a compelling story for a character that has so much potential, DC editors and creators decided to try and make him into a weird Iron Man ripoff. They totally missed the boat; the most compelling parts of Oliver Queen are not his wealth and tech. Queen is compelling because he's a very human character that's been shown to deal with loss, depravity and scandal, make the hard choice when the situation called for it, and always fought for the people. He's been criticized by some as a 'liberal hero', and I understand that making a character adhere to such values potentially cuts the readership, but that was such a big part of his character--and worse, today, in an era where we have left-wing movements happening across the world, he could've been probably more well received than ever.

But, alas, DC cut Green Arrow to ribbons, stripping him of all the aspects that made him interesting and compelling in the first place. I just can't see the reason why... why de-age him to a point where he just seems like an angsty Backstreet Boy? Was it Smallville? Why take an opportunity to add to character's depth and dimensions and waste it reducing him to cheap rip-off of other characters? Before The New 52, Green Arrow occupied a unique place in comics; he stood out amongst all the other milquetoast heroes as someone who was so many interesting shades of grey in the very black and white world of superhero comics.

I do fear for the future of the character, because recent history has not proven there's much hope. It will take a good writer who knows the strengths of the character to come on the book and get it back on course--essentially, a reboot of the reboot. I'm not saying Ollie should go back to his pre-DCnU characterization in totality, but there should be a concentrated effort to tell new stories with him, without losing the essence of the character.


Problems with The New 52.

As the title implies, I am still having many problems digesting The New 52 and its effects. I don't really want to engage in general conversation on continuity or suspension of belief; instead, I'd rather talk about some of the very specific problems that the reboot has caused and continually makes worse.

First of all: the timeline. The reboot has so badly damaged the timeline of the DCU that I'm not sure if it will ever recover without retconning the entire reboot. Tony brought up in the podcast last week that it's been said that the Crises never happened, and he pointed out just one example of a major problem with this logic: if Final Crisis never happened, then Bruce Wayne didn't 'die', and Dick wouldn't have had a reason to become Batman. Yet, we know that Dick was Batman for some unspecified amount of time prior to where the Nightwing series picks up in The New 52. This is problem the biggest and most relevant problem caused by the erasure of the Crises, but there are definitely others--New Krypton, anyone? Green Arrow took a big hit, too. How about Blackest Night and basically Johns' entire run on Green Lantern? (Note: I'm aware that it's been said the GL stuff remains in continuity, but there are pieces of the puzzle that don't fit: e.g., Hal Jordan's return couldn't have happened because, according to the new timeline set by the reboot, he would have never slaughtered the Corps, because Reign of the Supermen didn't happen, because Superman was never killed by Doomsday.)

Because I mostly follow only the Batman side of the DCnU, I'm going to try and stay focused on that. What's sad is that we've been told over and over again that the reboot hardly effected Batman's timeline--but that's an outright lie. Newsflash: making Bruce younger and compressing the timeline does not work. There's no way that all the classic Batman stories could remain relevant in light of The New 52. You always hear writers and editors espousing "Year One still happened, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory still happened...", but the list often stops there. What about all the other stories? What about Knightfall, Contagion, No Man's Land, Hush, War Games, RIP, Battle for the Cowl, and The Black Mirror? These are major stories that, it certainly seems, never happened. What about Bludhaven and that gigantic chunk of Nightwing's career? Or Tim's time as Robin as chronicled in the Robin series? What about the events that led up to Flashpoint, i.e., Tim's quest for Bruce and his encounter with Ra's? These are important and very recent events that shaped these characters, only to be discarded months later.

Again, I'm acknowledging the fact that many writers and artists and editors have said time and again that "..all that remains relevant", but there is no evidence that statements like that one bear any semblance of truth. It's one thing to say something, but a totally different thing all together to actually keep those stories relevant. It's been long enough now for the DCnU where we should've gotten a clear and definite timeline; but we haven't. All we have is a bunch of stories that, frankly, are not really that great, and some that are. Worse, we still don't know if these stories will matter in a few years, and if they will, where they will fit into the overall history of the DCU.

The second major problem that I've got is with who they're marketing this stuff to. We were told that this was done to attract new fans, and that it was necessary to keep the medium alive and keep DC current. Well, where are the numbers? Has there been a significant increase in sales since September? (Note: in order to gauge how many truly new readers the reboot brought in, this number has to be statistically relevant.) I'm willing to bet that the reboot attracted very little new readers, with that number dropping as the months go by; worse yet, I'm willing to bet most of those new readers that bought books in September and October stopped buying them already.

It seems like we fans took a hit and were told to do so for the greater good. Which would be fine, however it doesn't seem that that sacrifice was worthwhile. Call me cynical--it wouldn't be the first time--or nostalgic or whatever. The bottom line is that, for years, we've been collecting DC Comics and building a comprehensive, shared universe in which these characters live and operate, and in one fell swoop, we're told to reinvest ourselves in a new beginning. A beginning which has given a lot of character lackluster starts, bad stories, corny villains, and, in some cases, bad sales.

I think we need to still be talking about this. Not that it's going to change anything, but because it matters to the DCU, it matters to comics, and it matter to us, the fans. I refuse to believe that the majority of invested fans have just swallowed this whole thing. Go back and look at some of your favorite stories from a few years ago. Read them. Remember why you enjoyed them and look for the connections that they made to other stories that you enjoyed. Once you do that, you'll realize how much the reboot destroyed.


Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

I'm a big proponent of rereading my favorite stories (sometimes over and over) in collected form. I prefer to do this because I feel like I am much more satisfied taking the story in in one or two sittings, as opposed to broken up over an entire 6 months or, worse, a year. I've had a lot of time due to being off from school for winter break recently and I've been able to reread Scott Snyder's Batman, Kyle Higgins' Nightwing, and Gates of Gotham. I plan on tearing into the Black Mirror hardcover sometime later this week also.

After rereading all these stories, which are, collectively, a sizeable portion of the recent Bat-mythos, I can't help but want for Dick to be back under the cowl. Now, I know this a somewhat loaded statement, so I don't want it to be misconstrued -- I'm thoroughly enjoying both Batman and Nightwing right now, but I feel like Dick's time under the cowl was rushed and cut short because of the New 52. I think the release of Leviathan right now kind of supports my claim; it certainly is evidence that Morrison did not have the time he would have liked with Batman, Inc..

I feel like there was so much more that writers could have done with Dick wearing the Bat-suit given enough time. I understand that Bruce had to come back, but I definitely thought Dick's time would have lasted a lot longer than it did. There's no reason why Dick couldn't have remained as Gotham's Batman while Bruce was expanding Batman, Inc., other than the fact that Batman, Inc. was cut way short by the New 52, of course. Morrison concluding his overarching story now is bad timing and I do feel like Batman, Inc., as a concept, lost a lot of its steam. I'll be rereading Morrison's entire run once I have all the trades and I know it will read like a masterpiece when I do, but for now, it is feeling kind of limp.

I just don't understanding why DC chose to have the Bat-books change the way that they did in September. There are no real astonishing changes, and the things that have been changed are a little ridiculous (yes, I'm referring to the ages of all the characters and the ludicrous timeline that's been established). And because of that, the books seem to be very similar to the standard. And again, this is not a critique of the stories that are going on right now -- they're fantastic Gotham City stories -- rather the editorial decision to abandon over a years worth of buildup and character growth in favor of starting over and getting back to the straight basics.

I'd even go as far as to say that I would have liked have seen Dick hold the mantle semi-permanently (i.e.: for >10 years), but I'm sure many would disagree with me and we all knew that would never happen. I do hope that, soon, the timeline will be straightened out and things will become more clear as to where they fit into continuity -- because, right now, it doesn't really fit -- and that writers will be allowed to go back and explore Dick's time under the cowl and in Gotham.

What do you guys think? Was Dick's time cut short? Do you think creators will, or would you like to see them, explore more of Dick's time as Batman?


My thoughts on Wolverine and the X-Men...

I'm a bit tardy on this -- it's exam season, sorry! -- but, I finally got around to reading Wolverine and the X-Men. As a follow up to my previous post anticipating the book, I figured it's only right to write up my opinions on it after reading.

I absolutely loved the issue; it did everything that I'd hope it was going to do and more. Aaron using Xavier to set things off in the very beginning was smart and, for me, a bit unexpected -- I did not think Charles was going to show up this early on and certainly didn't expect him to be characterized in the way that he was. I think that whole opening was a very effective passing of the baton type of setup and it really worked.

Logan is written exactly how I want him to be written in this situation -- apprehensive and nervous. It's a weird thing... those two adjectives aren't generally ones that are attributed to Wolverine, but I definitely think that they're appropriate in this case. In truth, I would have been disappointed if Logan was brash and take-charge right off the bat. I think one of my favorite things about Logan is his sense of humanity. Of course, there's the beserker, animalistic part of him (and it's cool), but what makes Logan so relateable to me is that he's so awkwardly human, even after -- and in spite of -- everything he's been through. If I were in Logan's shoes, I'd have taken the kids back to Westchester, and I'd be damn nervous about starting things up, too.

Sticking with characterization, I loved the way Aaron portrayed Beast as well. It makes sense for him to be under a great deal of pressure and a little on edge and, of course, aloof. Kitty was written well, too, and I think it's important that she's stepping into the Headmistress role; in a lot of ways, I think she's the perfect complement to Logan and will keep him grounded a bit.

I'm not sure what to make of Kid Gladiator, but I do hope he's going to have a little more depth than was let on in this issue. I'm intrigued by the Bamfs running around and I can't wait to see what Aaron does with Iceman. I'm really interested to see what Aaron has planned for Kid Omega, as it'll probably be a major plot running through this book.

The art, in my opinion, was perfect. I've always loved Chris Bachalo's stuff, but this blew me away totally. I think the attention to detail is astounding and he draws the X-Men like no other. I love his depiction of Wolverine, always have. What really stood out to me with regard to the art was the architecture of the Mansion and the setting. The way the Mansion is drawn as an in-progress mash up of super modern and classic styling is so cool. It just makes sense in a way that keeps the styling of the X-Mansion, but making the Jean Grey School really have it's own distinct look.

The setting and background art are extremely important to me. It's one of the reasons why I can't really enjoy older comics like I enjoy modern ones, because there wasn't much attention to backgrounds back then. For me, certain books and characters are all about the setting(s) that they operate in. The obvious one is Batman and Gotham City, but the X-Men are the same to me. I had a lot of trouble digesting the move away from the mansion and I had even more trouble reading them as West Coast heroes. To me, in the same way that Denny O'Neil said that Gotham City is always a rainy night in the middle of November, the mansion is in Westchester, NY, set in the fall or winter. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I associate those times of year with being in school or some other subconscious reason, I don't know. Either way, Bachalo really plays to that setting. Interestingly, he colored his own work in this book, and it really fits with what he was trying to convey. The colors of the sky throughout the book are those of a cold New York early winter, and even the ice (that I'm assuming is Bobby's doing) that's crowning one of the wings of the mansion gives that same sense of season.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book (as you can probably tell by now). Aaron and Bachalo proved here that they are ready to craft a classic-feeling X-Men story, and that's all I've been wanting from the X-books for the past three years. As a side note, I also picked up Aaron's Hulk, and it was equally amazing. Aaron has single-handedly brought me back to Marvel on a monthly basis.


My Comic Con Exeprience

New York Comic Con just wrapped up, as everybody knows, and I was fortunate enough to attend on Saturday. My girlfriend – who’s only interest in going was for me – bought passes for herself and I and kept it under wraps until last Sunday, so I didn't have the time to let it all soak in and prepare really well. By the time I got their early Saturday morning I didn't know what to expect. It being my first Con, I was excited and nervous. As a disclaimer, I don't usually attend things like this, and I abhor large crowds – I usually find even shopping malls a bit overwhelming – but I have always wanted to meet my favorite creators and see what comic cons are really about. I don't have any friends into comics and I definitely never thought my girlfriend would have wanted to go, so I just never have.

I can say this for sure: I'm so glad that I went. I had a really great time and for those, like me, that might not like large crowds or are intimidated in any way by it, my advice would be to go and spend as much time as you can in panels and with creators. That's exactly what I did. I got there early and walked the show floor way before most of the people arrived, but by noon, the floor was packed to the point that you could barely move. I decided to spend the middle portion of the day in panels and return to the floor later on to see if I could snag any stuff.

I made a point out of ducking into the Vertigo panel first, which was so, so awesome. All of the Vertigo team was there, including a cantankerous Brian Azzarello whose black sarcasm made the panel fun for even my girl – who knows nothing of any comics, let alone Vertigo. The stuff Vertigo has coming down the pike this year looks and sounds amazing. I'm most excited for Scott Snyder and Rafa Albuquerque's American Vampire which is apparently going to take us through the 50s, and a graphic novel being released called Marci. The creators of Marci were present, and the woman whose life on which the story is based gave a very touching description of what it means to her to be able to put her life into a graphic novel format. The story is about communist and the things she saw and was a part of as a young girl. There was an odd moment in which a strange, quirky man asked persistent questions about the character Prince Charming from Fables to the editor, despite no one from Fables being in attendance. He was met with silence by most of the panel and Brian Azzarello doing holding in laughter. It was a funny moment in a very weird and ironic way. My explaining it would do it no justice.

After the panel I went up to artist alley to search for a few people. First on my list was Trevor McCarthy; he's one of my favorite artists and I really wanted to ask him to sketch me something. I roamed around the alley – which was not very densely populated at this point – until I found Trevor sitting at his booth. I asked him to do a commission for me, and he was totally happy to do so. He was even happier when I told him that I wanted him to draw Tim Drake – all morning people were asking him to sketch Nightwing. He told me to come back at the end of the day and he'd have it ready. He was really friendly and enthusiastic to do the sketch despite the fact that he had lost his voice and was looking like he could use a break.

I had to oblige my girlfriend at this point and get lunch, though I knew it was going to be horrific. We ended up getting a couple of slices of pizza which were beyond disgusting and cost me about 13 bucks. That was lame. After "lunch" I went looking for the 215 booth to see IGN's Joey Esposito. I wanted to snag a copy of his book Footprints and meet him in person, but I couldn't find him anywhere. It didn't help that there was no working WiFi and no AT&T service, so I had no internet at all to find out when people would be where.

I continued to roam around artist alley looking at all the originals that the artists had laid out and it was there that my girlfriend said something really cool: flipping through Francis Manapul's original art – he wasn't there, though – she said "Wow. This art is really amazing. I never knew it was this detailed." It's cool to hear her appreciate the art for a better reason than because I like it.

I waited for a bit to get to see Fabian Nicieza to ask him to sign my copy of Robin 183. When I got to the booth there was a guy there that had literally, like 15 assorted X-titles for Fabian to sign. When the guy left and I stepped forward and handed Fabian my Robin, he said "Thank God! These guys with all these old X-books are killing me. About time I signed some Tim Drake!" He talked to me for a good 10 minutes about how much I love reading and he loves writing Tim and how he hopes he will get a chance to do it again very soon. It was a really cool experience to talk about a character that I love so much with a guy that has written some of my favorite stories.

After talking to Fabian, we went downstairs to the DC "The Edge/The Dark" panel. It was another awesome panel with Kyle Higgins talking a lot about his vision for Deathstoke, Adam Glass his own vision for Suicide Squad and Scott Snyder doing a nice monologue on Swamp Thing and thanking fans for making The Edge and The Dark such a success. Jeff Lemire got a ton of praise and applause for his work on Animal Man and he talked a bit about how Animal Man and Swamp Thing tie into each other. The panel was really cool to see, although it lacked the snappiness of the Vertigo panel.

After the panel I went back upstairs and saw that the show floor was pretty clear and I browsed what the different dealers had to offer. I ended up getting some great trades and HCs for half off, which was awesome.

After walking around the floor for a while, I went back upstairs to artist alley to look for Joey again – to no avail – and to pick up my sketch from Trevor. While I was up there I saw that Francis Manapul was at his booth and I went over to have him sign my copy of Adventure Comics #1. He was swarmed by people, and not just fans. There were interviewers crowded around him and he looked really overwhelmed. He signed the book for me and was pretty nice about it, though.

As an added bonus, while I was putting the book in my backpack, Kyle Higgins was kind of roaming around near where I was standing. I had a copy of Nightwing #1 with me and I didn’t even have to ask him to sign it, he kind of walked over to me and we just started talking. He was really, really cool and he was just bullshitting with me and my girlfriend for a while, talking Nightwing and what it was like for him to be doing the con this year. Honestly, it was like he’d known me from high school or something; he even showed me a picture on his phone of a page from Trevor’s upcoming issue. Toward the middle of the conversation Sterling Gates wandered over and Kyle introduced us; he was also really cool and friendly.

Once Kyle and Sterling left I went over to get my sketch from Trevor and we talked for a bit about how he’s hoping to draw Nightwing more often. He signed my Gates of Gotham #1 and presented me with the sketch, which was more awesome than I could’ve imagined. He did a fantastic job and, again, was so nice and happy to be there.

I wanted Scott Snyder and/or Greg Capullo to sign my Batman #1, but Scott was bouncing around different booths all day and I never caught him – seriously, that guy’s a champ. He was on a lot of panels and was doing a lot of signings at other booths on the floor – and Greg had a line that was just too long. I also knew that Tim Sale was going to be there, so I brought a copy of The Long Halloween with me just in case the line was small enough to allow me to get it signed, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was so long that the security was telling some people they had to leave.

By now it was like 6:30pm, and I could see my girlfriend had had just about enough. I was getting tired myself and we left and headed for the train. I was very shocked by the sheer size of the con; I knew it was big, but I had no idea just how many people were going to be there. I can’t imagine what SDCC is like. I was more shocked at how nice and personable all the creators were and how eager they were to actually have a conversation with me; I had thought it was going to be a stand in line and sign the book and go type of thing, and it was exactly the opposite. Getting a sketch from Trevor was really amazing and definitely a highlight of the show for me. It’s my first piece of original art. Talking to guys like Kyle Higgins and Sterling Gates, as I said, was like being in the company of people I knew for years and it’s definitely a cool thing to be around so many people who love the same stuff that you do. There’s a general feel of positivity in the air and you can feel the excitement from the minute you get there to the minute you leave.

Overall, the show was an amazing experience and I hope to attend again, maybe even next year. Here's a photo of the sketch that Trevor did for me:


Out with the New 52, and (hopefully) in with some classic X-Men..

According to DC Comics "Everybody's talking about the New 52." Well, I guess that's true, but for me the whole thing was a bit anti-climatic. I feel like the revamp was very underwhelming, and not in that good-because-not-too-much-was-changed way. Things were changed, but in my opinion, not really for the better. Sure, it had it's shining stars -- Batman, All Star Western, DC Universe Presents: Deadman, and Nightwing were all great reads -- but for the most part, it feels like something that I'm not going to want to remember in 5 or 10 years.

However, something more interesting came out of September. The previews from Marvel showcasing their plans for the X-Men this Fall really caught my attention. Uncanny is ending and restarting, Wolverine is going to take the X-Men back to Westchester -- and hopefully to their roots -- it's all very exciting for X-Men fans who remember the proverbial glory days.

Maybe this was Marvel's big plan. I remember hearing about the New 52 over the Summer and thinking when Marvel was going to make a similar momentous announcement. And they never really did; I think a lot of people were waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it just never happened. But, as I said, perhaps this was what Marvel had in mind: let the New 52 burn bright through September, and while it starts to fizzle out in October and November -- and mark my words, it will fizzle out soon; there's no way this hype is going to ride on the backs of lackluster books for much longer -- they'll launch a big, refreshing, new paradigm for the X-Men, one of their most popular group of titles.

If that was one of their plans, they caught my attention for sure. I've stated before that I haven't read any X-Titles in over 2 years. I've tried numerous times to jump in, but never found anything worth reading. I hate them in San Fransisco and Utopia; I hate them not residing in an institution that mentored young mutants; I hate them without Jean Grey -- the conscious of the team -- and I hate them without Charles' vision. I don't care for Magneto being on a member and I can't stand Emma Frost.

And yes, a lot of this stuff is not going away or changing, but a lot of it is as far as I'm concerned. Maybe it won't be Xavier leading a team of moral heroes from his school in upstate New York. But Wolverine doing it is fine by me. I can't wait to read Wolverine and the X-Men; I only hope I'm not disappointed.

I will probably pick up Uncanny #1 just to see what it's about and to follow the general Regenesis story, but I don't have hopes for it, because it does seem like more of the same stuff that I don't like. But, I'll give it a shot.

There's no denying that Jason Aaron is a fantastic writer and I know a lot of people don't like Bachalo's art, but I do and I always have. He belongs drawing the X-Men as far as I'm concerned and seeing the preview art for his work really makes it feel like the X-Men that I know and love.

I hope that Aaron and Bachalo can take things back to basics and get the tone to where it was during Messiah Complex. That's what I've been wanting since the end of Divided We Stand, and as a long time X-Men fan, I couldn't be more heartened by these previews. I know I can't be alone on this... There's got to be a few long time X-fans out there who, like me, were excited by these previews...


How Do You Envision Batman?

 When you think about Batman -- or any character, really -- how do you see them in your mind's eye? How do you render that character in memory and what type of imagery and symbolism do you associate with that character?  

Over the years Batman has gone through numerous different looks. From Bruce's build and stature, to the material and fit of the Bat-suit and the shape of the ears on his cowl, every artist seems to have a different vision for what the Dark Knight should look like. The same can be said for other characters like Superman, but it's much more common to see variations on the Bat-suit than it is to see in Superman's. Perhaps this is because of all the creative freedom that having Bruce be a billionaire with nearly unlimited resources provides; or perhaps it's Bruce's greatest trait -- his intelligence and ingenuity -- that allows creators to feel free enough to continually change the costume and tech that he employs. Whatever the case may be, we've seen a ton of variation through the years, and undoubtedly, we as fans have our favorites. 
Many people cite the leaner Batman from the Neil Adams era as their favorite look, and it's certainly iconic. This tall, lean, detailed depiction is the one most often emblazoned on t-shirts and other merchandise. On the opposite side of things, we  have Frank Miller's iteration of the Dark Knight, seen in the beloved The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Miller's stylized art is perfect for the types of stories he so often tells, but it's a bit too disproportioned for my liking.  

I do prefer Batman to be hulking and imposing, much more so than Adams' style, but not quite as cartoonishly exaggerated a la Miller. In general I have sort of a pet peeve against heroes being portrayed as overly ripped with striated muscles, but even more so with Batman. I can suspend my belief a bit when I see super strong heroes drawn by the likes of Finch, Lee, or Turner, but Bruce is but a man, and no ordinary man could have such a musculature that he'd look the way some artist draw him when he's in costume... Unless the costume was painted on... But it's not. 
The costume is made of fabric of some sort, which would obscure most of the anatomical details that some artists choose to depict. I prefer it look like it was fashioned from a kevlar type of material. That means it should be a little on the thicker side; after all, it's supposed to defend Batman from knives and bullets -- simple spandex just isn't going to do that. Also, I might be nit-picking here, but I think the costume should have visible seams or piping of some sort and it's that kind of attention to minute details that I appreciate in some Bat-artists. 
When one thinks about the Bat-suit, the question of color is nearly unavoidable. Blue or black cape and cowl? Grey body suit or all black? Yellow ovular symbol or solid black bat? I prefer the standard grey and black coloring, with the basic black bat and large gauntlets and boots.

Upcoming Batman artist, and one of my personal favorite pencillers of all time, Greg Capullo, describes his vision for the Bat in a way that's totally, 100% in sync with my own: 

For me, it needs to be a Batman I would be afraid of. I want him to be big and imposing so he gives the impression that if he hit you, you'd feel like you got hit by a truck; like if he rammed you with his body, it's a slab of meat pounding into you. But I also want him to appear sharp, as if to cut you. So the cape is very sharp and he's got the blades on his gauntlets and he's got the pointy ears. But I smooth him out... I don't have the shredded, razor-sharp abdominal muscles on mine. He's more of a slab who'd be hitting you. That's my interpretation of Batman and sort of where I'm going with it: a big, monolithic, imposing, character who can just plow you over and cut you to ribbons.

Reading this interview with Greg really got me thinking about how we as fans envision the characters that we love so much. I read this thinking how perfect Capullo's description of the Dark Knight sounded to me and also how personal this art is for everyone, artists and fans alike. I know for a fact that there are people who are just not going to love the way Capullo draws Batman, and that's cool, because it's all a matter of opinion and personal connection. 
I think it's these types of things that make the comics, the universes, the characters, so enthralling and so entrenching -- there's inherent personal connections to these fictions that we as fans have and I think that's the driving force behind all the passion.
Credit for the quote goes to this awesome CBR interview.

Some Interesting Stuff...

It seems as though Comic Con has catapaulted itself smack dab in the middle of pop culture and the mainstream media (more on this later); the media coverage for the Con this year was unprecedented. Celebrities trounced around the Convention Center clad in superhero t-shirts that they'll never wear again, major news companies provided coverage on their websites, television shows and movies that have nothing to do with sci-fi or comics had booths, and most importantly, the internet exploded with all things SDCC. Hashtags were abdundant, cosplay pictures were everywhere, and some websites -- that usually have nothing to do with comics -- doled out interesting blogs and articles. Geek culture has hit it's critical mass, and it won't be long before apoptosis occurs, so we might as well enjoy it while we're on top. I'll have another blog on this topic soon that I hope will generate a lot of discussion, but for now, here's some links to rather neat web-writings that usually don't care about comics: 

  1. The first is this article from Wired is a site I browse daily, mostly for tech news, but this morning, to my delight, there was this article. I don't know if I agree with some of what the author says, but it's a nice look into the industry from someone who appears to be, at most, a casual fan.
  2. Next up is a post from a fantastic blog that I read all the time. If you're interested in the science of biological enhancements, biotech, seeing science fiction come to life, or ethical debates, this blog is a must read. The author is smart, witty and very connected with things going on in the world of bioethics and bioengineering. This specific blog is an analysis of Captain America -- the movie -- from his point of view, and it's really, really interesting. Take a look!
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