80 years, 1000 issues, one hero

Action Comics 1Eighty years ago today, a comic book hit the newsstands. It cost ten cents, and the vast majority of people who purchased it — as most people did in 1938 — read the book once and then threw it away. Those people who didn’t, if they still happen to have the book and it’s in decent condition, are sitting on a fortune. That book changed everything. It invented a genre, it left an indelible mark across popular culture, and it gave this woeful world a hero that has left a mark on everything we know.

April 18, 1938, was the day Action Comics #1 was released to the world. It was the day Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster gave us Superman.

Action Comics 1000Today — thanks to a little creativity with the release schedule, DC Comics is releasing Action Comics #1000, the first superhero comic book ever to hit that milestone number. I could spend hours waxing on about the importance of that character, of that book, regaling you with the hundreds of amazing writers and artists who have crafted tales of the man of steel over the last 80 years. But there are plenty of other people writing about that today, many of them far more qualified than I. Instead, let me tell you why Action Comics and Superman matter to me.

Superman is considered the first superhero. Clearly, there are earlier characters that include many of the tropes of the genre (Philip Wylie’s Gladiator, Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and so forth), but Superman was the character that codified everything we think of when we think of the word: the costume, the powers, the secret identity, the tireless crusade against evil. And although there were many, many imitators, for a very long time Superman was the most popular of them all. Things changed during the “Marvel Age” of the 1960s, when characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men gained traction and became the choice of the sophisticated comic book aficionado. And to be fair, those characters had faults and flaws that made them more realistic and more relatable than a lot of the heroes that had existed before then, the Superman of the time included.

Action Comics 484Over the years, there have been attempts every so often to “reinvent” Superman. Some of them have been very successful, some have not. As such, many people complain that the character is “boring” or “too powerful” or “old fashioned,” as if there’s anything wrong with that last one. This results in further reinventions that don’t work, because people lean too hard in the other direction, making a character that loses contact with his humanity. Whenever I hear a writer wants to focus on the fact that Superman is an alien, it makes me nervous, because that’s not what he’s about.

WAction Comics 500hat makes Superman so great is that — despite the fact that he was born on another planet — he is the most human hero of them all. His power comes from Krypton, but his soul was forged in the farmland of Kansas, brought up by two good, kind people to be a good, kind person. With his power, Superman could take over the world. Instead, he chooses to defend it. This sounds a little trite, but in truth, it’s the most important thing about the character. Who among us, if given any super power, would never succumb to the urge to use it selfishly, even just a little? If given the power to crush diamonds out of coal, wouldn’t you be living in a mansion? If you could could move faster than the eye could see, might not an errant pitch just happen to go the right way for your favorite baseball team? If you had heat vision, how many jerks who cut people off in traffic would find their tires suddenly melted?

Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Action Comics v2 1aThe point is, Superman could do all these things, but doesn’t. More to the point, he chooses not to. It’s not that he never feels the temptation, it’s that he knows he can’t give into it. That’s the kind of strength that makes the character fascinating. That’s the kind of thing that he got from the Kansas farmland. The greatest stroke of luck the citizens of the DC Universe ever had is that Kal-El’s spaceship landed on the property of Jonathan and Martha Kent.

A few years ago, DC pulled back from the hero they’d had and made him younger, nullified his marriage to Lois Lane, and tried to “update” him again. A few years later they realized the error of their ways. Now, not only are Superman and Lois married, but they have a son: Jon Kent, Superboy. In nearly 30 years of reading Superman comic books, nothing has made me happier than the adventures of Super-dad and his boy. And a great deal of that probably has to do with the fact that, a little over a year after this became DC canon, I became a dad myself. Superman has always been the man I wish I could be. Now, when I read Action Comics, I see the father — besides my own — that I aspire to be the most.

Action Comics 957That, you see, is what Superman is. One of the “updates” that seems to have stuck is the idea that his symbol, the “S-shield,” is actually the Kryptonian symbol for the word “hope.” This couldn’t be more appropriate. In the world of the comics, movies, and TV shows, that symbol means that you don’t need to be afraid: no matter what is happening Superman (or sometimes Supergirl, or Superboy, or if the writers are really feeling playful, Krypto the Super-Dog) is there to save the day. In our world, the world that needs a hero so desperately, it’s a reminder of an ideal. Superman is about having inner strength to do the right thing, to protect people who need it, to shine a light of hope where none exists.

It can be a hard thing, sometimes.

But 1000 issues later, I feel as if we need that symbol more than ever.

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Does the Avengers movie move mean death?

In a surprising move, Marvel Studios has announced the release of its next film, Avengers: Infinity War, will be moving up a week, abandoning the traditional First weekend in May slot for an April 27 launch date It’s great! It’s wonderful! And the more I think about it, the more certain I am that this means somebody is going to die.

ininity war group

Marvel, of course, has teased us with the possibility that someone major might die in this movie for quite some time. And in the interest of suspense, it’s always best to leave that window open, because if your heroes are never in real peril it’s harder to get caught up in the action. But the films of the MCU have a track record almost as bad as their comic book counterparts when it comes to keeping the good guys below ground. Agent Coulson was resurrected on TV, Nick Fury came back before the movie in which he died even ended, and although Groot is technically dead, he was replaced with an offspring similar enough that a lot of people evidently didn’t even realize they were two different organisms.

“Sure, death in superhero movies is cheap, Blake. And the price of bacon just keeps going up! So what? What does that have to do with the release date?” Well, if you’d stop interrupting my blog posts with your bizarre pork-based analogies, I’ll tell you.

I think it comes down to Rotten Tomatoes and The Walking Dead. Oh, and also Europe.

I should probably explain. A large number of the MCU movies have opened in Europe a week earlier than they have in the US. This hasn’t really been a big deal, except for the occasional communique from across the pond that threatens to reveal information about a film that has yet to be glimpsed by American eyes. For most of the Marvel movies, these posts haven’t been anything of Earth-shattering importance:

“Zendaya is Mary Jane!” — Rumors That Have Been Circulating For Months Quarterly

“Blimey, that Black Panther is a bit of all right!” — Cockney Stereotype Magazine

“Yondu is Mary Poppins, y’all!” — Out of Context Quotes Online

But what if Infinity War has something that truly is of monumental importance to the MCU? What if, for example, Steve Rogers were to die? It’s certainly possible. Chris Evans’s contract is up and the MCU already has two other characters running around who have replaced him as Captain America in the comics at one point or another. It’s possible, I think, that they decided to close the gap in release dates because they knew there was no way to keep that secret (or a similar one) under wraps once the film hits the theaters in the UK, so they needed to make things mesh up.

Is it that big a deal, though, if the movie gets spoiled? After all, studios keep touting studies that indicate spoilers actually enhance people’s enjoyment of media, even though that’s completely insane and the people who did these studies are clearly misdosing themselves on cold medication. It’s why trailers have all the best stuff in them. It’s why casting news blurts out surprises you’d rather not know way ahead of time. It’s why Marvel and DC Comics keep announcing what’s happening in tomorrow’s comics in today’s edition of USA Today and it makes me want to kick them in their collective shins. So wouldn’t word leaking out that Steve Rogers is taking the big dirt nap, logically, improve the performance of Infinity War?

Of course not, and the studio knows it, and frankly I think this whole thing proves that they know the “spoilers make movies better” thing is a load of horseshit they use to justify leaking out just enough to try to draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t see the movie while simultaneously pissing off those of us who would rather see it for ourselves.

Over the past year or two, a lot has been made about Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator site that some people say has taken on such prominence that it can influence the performance of a movie. I’m not one of those who would go so far as to say that Rotten Tomatoes should be shut down (I like that First Amendment the way it is, after all), but I do believe that we’ve seen its work — movies that had strong buzz crashing and burning after they release their sacred percentage, DVD cases and shelves clamoring to add that “certified fresh” sticker, and most importantly, a legion of nerds on the Internet slinging around a movie’s RT score as if it was some objective measure of quality, which it isn’t. Frankly, I find the notion of using a RT score to determine a film’s worth without watching it yourself utterly absurd, but I would never deny that it’s become a force in the industry.

Then there’s The Walking Dead and I’m about to drop MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON EIGHT MID-SEASON FINALE AND MID-SEASON PREMIERE, WHICH IS PROBABLY INFORMATION YOU ALREADY KNOW, BUT NOW YOU CAN’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.

walking deadIn the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, Chandler Riggs’s character Carl was revealed to have been bitten by a walker. This was followed by a few months of cries, outrage, and death threats against showrunner Scott Gimple, many of them made by the same people on the internet who wouldn’t shut up about how much they hated Carl a year ago. I kid (sort of), but it’s a testament to how good an actor Chandler Riggs is that he took a character that was a meme synonymous with the obnoxious child in a life-or-death situation and turned him into someone that fans were genuinely upset to see die. And in fact, he did die in the midseason premiere last weekend… which suffered record-low ratings for the show.

I’m not saying the reason the ratings plunged is because people were angry that Carl died, but let’s face it, the reason the ratings plunged is because people were angry that Carl died. And this was after they had a couple of months to calm down and allow cooler heads to prevail.

Now apply this same logic to the MCU. What if people knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Steve Rogers was going to die in Infinity War. It’s not a tease, it’s not a possibility, I heard it from a guy in England that this is absolutely what happens in this movie. Sure, some people (myself included) would see the movie no matter what, but isn’t it possible that a lot of those same people who walked out in anger over Carl would boycott Infinity War if they heard the news? Enough of them to tank the movie’s all-important opening weekend numbers? (The fact that a movie’s fate is decided by the take of a single weekend is even more absurd than the fact that it is decided by a review aggregator, but that’s another conversation entirely.)

Please keep in mind, nothing I’m saying here should be construed as a condemnation of Infinity War. I obviously haven’t seen it and don’t know any more about it than you do, but I love what the Russo Brothers did in their two Captain America movies and I’m excited as hell to see what they do with the whole of the MCU as their playground. But I do think that this is a case where Marvel saw the writing on the wall and decided to get ahead of it.

Thanks to my lovely wife, Erin, for casually asking me why I thought they changed the release date and inadvertently inspiring this whole post. I’m sure she’s glad she had to go to work and didn’t have to listen to me thinking this all out loud.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got a bunch of books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

 

All New Fresh Point Now

If you ask most people who know me in person, they’ll tell you I don’t use curse words very often. Not compared to other people, at least, unless I’m driving. But my lack of vulgarity doesn’t come from a place of prudery or propriety. I don’t really mind curse words. I don’t care if somebody else uses them, unless it’s in a wildly inappropriate context, such as in the presence of children, or a sacred occasion like Stan Lee’s birthday. No, the reason I don’t curse very much is because I believe that doing so robs the word of its power. I know people who say the F-word as if it were a pronoun (which, to be fair, it can be), and they say it so often that nobody blinks an eye. On the other hand, if I use the F-word around people familiar with my usual speech patterns and mannerisms, I can grind an entire room to a halt. People stop talking. All eyes turn to me. A tumbleweed rolls by. Because when I use the F-word, it damn well means I have been pushed to the absolute limit and I can’t contain it anymore. Overuse steals power.

On a related note, Marvel announced this week that it’s relaunching its entire line of comics with new first issues.

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This “Fresh Start” is not, as you may have noticed, the first time they’ve done such a thing. And to be fair, they didn’t do it first. Comic books from across the landscape have been cycling through relaunches and reboots for years, but the first time a major publisher did it across the board was with DC’s New 52 initiative in 2011. DC did it again in 2016 with DC Universe Rebirth. (Some people will include 2015’s “DCYou” line in this list. I don’t, though, because although several books were launched or retooled at this time, nothing specifically started over with a new first issue because of DCYou.)

DC Universe Rebirth 1The year after the New 52, which was highly successful at first, we got “Marvel Now!,” in which everything was relaunched and changed and different except for the stuff that wasn’t. DC Rebirth was a reaction to dwindling returns from the New 52, it was a course-correction intended to recover the things lost in the New 52, and almost two years later it is still largely viewed as a critical and commercial success.

In this same space of time, Marvel has done a linewide relaunch no less than five times. And although the books did go through changes at that time, those changes often didn’t seem to match up with the relaunch — creative teams stayed the same, story arcs continued. The relaunches felt increasingly arbitrary. So you’ll forgive me if the announcement of Marvel’s Fresh Start fails to instill me with confidence. Are there problems at Marvel? Absolutely. Are many of the books a mess? Without a doubt. Is a new #1 going to be the solution? Color me skeptical.

Conventional wisdom says that a first issue brings a sales boost. And that’s usually true, in the short term. Issue one sells better than issue 101. But does issue 5 sell better than issue 105? These first issue boosts are short-term solutions to long-term problems. A lot of people argue that the number on the issue doesn’t really matter, which is fair enough if you’re the sort who doesn’t care about such things. But if that’s the case, if numbers don’t matter, why do they keep going back to it? Why not just switch to the format for other magazines, which usually carry the publication date instead of an issue number? That, at least, would make it clear in which order the books were produced, which isn’t the case now.

When the Captain Marvel movie was announced, my wife was really interested and wanted to read some trade paperbacks starring the character. She gave up on that idea when we were unable to figure out which of the assorted Captain Marvel Vol. 1 trade paperbacks she was supposed to start with. Since 2011 we’ve had “Point One” issues (in which Marvel realized people weren’t reading one-shots and miniseries as much anymore so they decided to use decimal points to sneak them into the regular titles), the 2012 Marvel Now! line-wide relaunch, the 2015 All-New All-Different Marvel Now! partial relaunch, the 2016 Marvel Now! post-Secret Wars relaunch, and then last year’s Marvel Legacy relaunch, in which assorted books were brought back to their “original” numbering, in some cases using extremely specious math to arrive at a number relatively close to a “milestone” (usually defined as a multiple of 50).

So the “Fresh Start” is, evidently, intended to make things clear by starting over again, except in those cases where they keep the Legacy numbers on the cover along with the new numbers. Just typing that sentence makes my brain want to hurt. Marvel, if you insist on doing this, can you please change the title (like when Amazing Spider-Man was replaced with Superior Spider-Man) or add a subtitle (like X-Men: Blue or X-Men: Gold)? Or even just give up and switch to the TV model of “Season One,” “Season Two,” etc.?

Marvel Legacy 1Perhaps the most galling thing about this, though, is that the most recent Marvel relaunch isn’t even over yet. Marvel Legacy began with a one-shot that introduced things like an Avengers team from the dawn of time (that apparently won’t show up until the Fresh Start reboot) and the resurrection of the original Wolverine, in a story that hasn’t shown up except in a few “post-credits” pages that don’t make a damn bit of sense. I have to reiterate here: Marvel will still be telling stories that began in the previous relaunch when the new relaunch begins.

What the hell?

I know this sounds like I’m crapping all over Marvel. And to be fair, other publishers are by no means blameless here. Superman is getting a new first issue in June just because Brian Michael Bendis is taking over the book. Valiant restarted X-O Manowar because they figured volume 4 #1 would sell better than volume 3 #51. I don’t even know how many times they’ve restarted Youngblood.

But Marvel is the most serious offender at this point. And what’s more, it hurts the most when they do it, because with each relaunch they’re whittling away at the loyal fanbase in the hunt for a new audience that isn’t being hooked, even by the success of movies like Black Panther. While I sincerely want their comics to be good, and I have no issues with Jason Aaron on Avengers, they have yet to convince me that this is going to be a sincere effort to fix the problem (ala Rebirth) or just another Band-Aid on a gaping, gushing wound.

I want to be wrong. Come on, Marvel. Make it happen.

You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got a bunch of books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.

 

Three Wishes: Frexit

DisfoxFor most of 2017, it feels like we’ve been strapped into Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and forbidden from getting off (the Haunted Mansion just taunting us in the distance, people casually chomping on Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, enormous turkey legs, and Dole Whips while we starve to death in our carts… man, I’ve got to stop writing these things before lunch). And just when you thought it couldn’t get crazier, after weeks of rumors and negotiations, it seems all but certain that the Fox company is ready to sell off its entertainment branches to the Walt Disney Corporation and Shadow Government. This is a huge deal with massive implications for many aspects of media and popular culture, and frankly, I’m not in the mind to talk about all of them considering how many poop-filled diapers I’ve had to deal with lately.

Disney has been an acquisition machine for years now, gobbling up Pixar, then the Muppets, then Marvel and Lucasfilm. Let’s face it, they’re one Walmart merger away from total world domination. And certainly, with the Fox entertainment properties under the Disney roof, a lot of things would change. But there are a million thinkpieces out there about that. Instead, let’s take a minute to mention a couple of the things I hope don’t change too much with the new Disney-Fox Global Consortium firmly in place.

1. The autonomy of the 20th Century Fox movie studio: Fox is one of the grand old dames of the movie business, having been around since 1935 and giving us hundreds of classic, timeless, unforgettable films, and also James Cameron’s Avatar. Disney, of course, has its own cinematic pedigree. The big difference here is that Fox’s films have run the gamut of genre and audience types. The Disney brand, however, is far more associated with family fare. Even bringing in Marvel and Star Wars hasn’t changed that dramatically — while those properties may hit an older audience than The Little Mermaid, there’s still nothing there you may be uncomfortable watching with your mom in the room.

Fox, on the other hand, gave us the likes of Aliens, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Die Hard, and hundreds of other films (both wonderful and terrible) that would be an odd fit under the Disney banner. If Disney simply folds all of these into their current operations, it seems unlikely that these franchises or others of a similar temperament would have a home. On the other hand, Disney doesn’t really have an arm that makes entertainment for older audiences anymore. Miramax was sold off a few years ago, and their Touchstone banner is basically just a distribution arm these days, not having made any films of its own in nearly a decade. If 20th Century Fox is allowed to continue, it could fill that niche in the Disney portfolio of films for older audiences.

2. Animation “Domination.” Disney, for decades, was the undisputed juggernaut of animation in film. Its television competitors — even when the likes of Hanna-Barbera created memorable characters — often paled in comparison to Disney quality. That has changed drastically in the last two decades, with Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, Universal, and — yep — Fox stepping up their game to create franchises that legitimately compete with Disney. And on TV, Fox has a foot in something that Disney has never truly dabbled in: animation for grown-ups.

The Simpsons, obviously, is the perennial classic. Futurama was even better. King of the Hill is remembered fondly, Bob’s Burgers is the current Emmy-winning darling. Family Guy is… also a thing. Hopefully, Disney won’t curtail these things or try to reshape them into the mold of their own animated properties. Things like Ducktales, Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law are great, but it would be a shame if the rules that govern those shows were to be shifted over to the Belcher family.

3. Fox’s Marvel Universe. Yeah, the one thing that everybody wants is to see the X-Men interact with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hugh Jackman even suggested once that doing an Avengers movie would be the only way he’d play Wolverine again. And has any superhero franchise ever needed a new approach as desperately as the Fantastic Four?

But having said that, I honestly think it’s a good thing that, when the MCU started, Marvel didn’t have all of their big guns under one roof. If they’d had the FF, X-Men, and Spider-Man, do you think Marvel’s first film would have been Iron Man? Hell no. They played with the toys that were left in the box, and as a result, they did something excitingly different that has paid off in spades. If they could have made an X-Men movie, would they have gambled on something like the Guardians of the Galaxy? Would we have seen Ant-Man or Dr. Strange on the screen? It seems highly unlikely.

And on the other side, look at the X-Men films. Okay, Wolverine and Deadpool are popular enough that they could have probably landed their own movies eventually. But at present, Fox does two or three X-Men films a year. So does the MCU. If they’re all folded under one banner, that’s likely to halve the output. Those same three guys on the internet who keep complaining that there are too many superhero movies will probably be thrilled, of course, but what about the rest of us? With the MCU only having room for one X-movie a year, would we get weird things like the upcoming New Mutants movie (which, as per the trailer, seems more like a horror film than a superhero movie), or the Madrox film with James Franco that was just announced? No, not every Fox X-Men film has been gold, but I think it’s worth the risk of the occasional clunker to have the chance to do things like Logan, which would never fit into the MCU.

The best-case scenario, I think, would be for an arrangement similar to the Marvel/Sony deal for Spider-Man, where crossover is allowed, but each company (or in this case, each Disney subsidiary) is mostly allowed to do its own thing.

As always, though, this is just me spitballing. What actually happens with all of this is going to be up to 2018 to decide. May it be a little tamer than its predecessor, because I for one couldn’t take 2017 all over again.

Look For Me in Duckburg

ducktalesrebootposter-1-600x900On the one hand, the world is once again on the brink of nuclear annihilation. On the other hand, tomorrow is the premiere of the first episode of DuckTales in 27 years, so things can’t actually be that bad.

I need you guys to understand something. This new DuckTales series, which I haven’t watched yet as I write this, has me excited. Like… really excited. I’m talking The Force Awakens levels of excited. Wonder Woman levels of excited. The McRib is back levels of excited.

Because DuckTales isn’t just a cartoon for me, not really. It’s not even just a great cartoon, one of the best of the 80s, with the catchiest theme song ever written in the history of music. DuckTales is special to me in a way very few cartoons are.

Ducktales OriginalThe original DuckTales premiered in 1987, when I was about to turn ten years old, and I watched it, like every other child in America. I liked it. I enjoyed it. It was a fun show, with lots of adventure on top of the humor. Scrooge and his nephews went out and found lost cities of gold and plunged the depths of the oceans. They encountered a spacecraft full of miniscule alien ducks and a subterranean race of creatures that looked like nothing more than rubber balls with arms and a face. It was glorious. But I was at an odd age, one where I started to feel like I was a little too old for certain things (this was not a stage that lasted very long for me, but there it was nonetheless), among them, Disney comics. I was into comic books by then, big-time, but my reading time was devoted to things like Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and a mysterious superhero group that has been lost to time called the Fantastic Four. I was ten. Nearly a teenager. Who had time for comics with a bunch of ducks?

I was a moron, is what I’m getting at.

But even so, I watched DuckTales. And oddly enough, parts of it seemed… familiar.

Uncle Scrooge 1I got older and I got over myself, which is something that a lot of people never figure out how to do. I realized the notion of “outgrowing” something that is legitimately good is ridiculous, and I found my way back to Disney comics. Specifically, I found myself reading more and more of the works of Carl Barks. Barks, a one-time animator at Disney, really made his mark when he switched to comic books. It was there that he created Scrooge McDuck and made him a globe-trotting adventurer, one who found lost cities and sunken continents, tiny aliens from outer space… and… underground dwellers who looked like rubber balls?

Holy crap. DuckTales had pillaged Barks shamelessly.

I wasn’t bitter, though. Far from it. Realizing that the show I watched as a child had drawn so heavily from the Disney comics somehow made me appreciate both of them even more. And if Barks wasn’t enough, I soon discovered his spiritual successor Don Rosa. Not only did Rosa continue telling Scrooge and Donald stories in the vein that Barks had for decades, but he was writing and drawing beautiful sequels to those stories. Then, in a work that I maintain is not just the masterwork of Disney comics, but one of the finest comic book stories of all time, Rosa wove together all of Barks’s classic Scrooge stories into an outstanding, comprehensive history: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.

Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck V1(Side note: If the people at Disney have a brain in their heads, they’ll lock in David Tennant to star in a big-screen adaptation of Life and Times RIGHT THE HELL NOW.)

Barks and Rosa, to me, are up there with the likes of Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, and Jim Henson. They are creators who prove that you can do something magnificent that truly belongs to all ages. Work intended for children doesn’t have to be tedious and boring for adults. Stories that thrill an adult don’t have to include elements that make them inappropriate for children. These creators are among the finest of those who make work that sincerely belongs to everyone.

And now DuckTales is coming back, and if everything I’ve seen is to be believed, the new series seems to draw even more from Barks’s Scrooge than the old one did.

There’s one other reason I’m ecstatic about this new DuckTales, and it may be the most important one.

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He’s supposed to arrive some time next month.

I’m going to be a father, something that (if I’m going to be honest) I never thought was going to happen. And not only is it happening, but it’s happening right now, just as one of the greatest things of my childhood is returning to the world. I’m going to have a son, and I’m going to have a new DuckTales series to share with him.

And after the year Erin and I have had, that little bit of joy is almost enough to make me burst.

The premiere of the new series plays all day on August 12 on Disney XD, or on the Disney XD and ABC apps for free. So that’s where you’ll find me for a while: riding a hurricane into the quaint little town of Duckberg, racing giant robots, seeking treasure, chasing crooked Beagles. And a little down the line, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with an armored accountant and the terror that flaps in the night.

It feels like coming home.

Merry Christmas, Showcase Family

Hello, friends of the Showcase! Merry Christmas to you all! In just a moment, our traditional Showcase gallery of Christmas comic covers. But two quick things:

  1. Don’t forget, we’re still taking your votes for the top ten franchises that need a Rebirth makeover for an upcoming episode. You can read the full details here.
  2. As I do every Christmas, I’ve written a new short story that I’m giving away for free. You can get it for your Kindle or Kindle app right here.

And that’s it! You guys have a wonderful Christmas, a Happy New Year, and we’ll see you soon!

Three Wishes: Comics on TV

In Three Wishes, I choose a topic and pick three (often pie-in-the-sky) dreams I’d like to see become a reality. Most of these will never see the light of day, but in a perfect world, they would.

 bone-1I recently finished a re-read of Jeff Smith’s series Bone, a comic I dearly loved when it was published originally in the 90s and early 00s, and one that I’m happy to report still holds up marvelously. For the first few issues (or chapters, for those who read it in collected editions), it seems as though this comic will be a sweet, funny tale about three cartoonish characters driven out of their home and forced to make a new one in a strange valley with bizarre creatures. The tone shifts rapidly, though, and it soon becomes clear that Bone is really an epic fantasy series, full of adventure and mysticism that shares more DNA with the likes of Lord of the Rings than Garfield.

The final issue of Bone was published in 2004, but despite that fact, it may be more popular today than ever before. Thanks to a well-structured partnership with Scholastic Publishing, an entire generation of young readers has grown up with the three cousins from Boneville in the 12 years since the series was completed. At the time the book was still in production, there was often discussion of a Bone movie, and Nickelodeon even expressed interest in the project. However, it became clear to Smith that they had no idea what the property really was when they wanted to give Fone Bone a pair of magic gloves and a soundtrack by N’Sync, and he eventually killed the deal. The most recent information I could find says that Warner Bros held the film rights as of 2012, but nothing has really been done with them and I don’t know if they even still hold Bone in their stable.

Regardless, the more I thought about it, the less I think a Bone movie would be a good idea. I really think the better home for this incredible story would be on television. The TV landscape has undergone a seismic change since Bone finished its run. In fact, the change began even earlier, in the 90s, with shows like Twin Peaks (the more famous example) and Babylon 5 (the more successful example) showing that TV was an excellent medium for longform storytelling. Whereas most shows were episodic, telling one story each week that often brought no lasting change to the main characters or the status quo of the series, these shows were willing to experiment with a single extended story that had its own beginning, middle, and end. The same year that Bone’s final issue was published, ABC launched a TV show with a similarly simple title: LOST. It became a breakout hit and since then, serialized stories have become commonplace. In fact, two of the biggest shows on TV today are serialized adaptations of genre properties: Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

bone-55A Bone TV show would be the best way to explore the rich world Jeff Smith created in his 55 issues (and assorted specials and spin-offs), allowing the audience to learn the whole story in its beautiful complexity instead of truncating it to the measly 90 minutes it would likely get on the big screen. The show would, of course, have to be animated – you simply can’t capture the charm of the Bone cousins in live action and having CGI avatars of them interacting with real humans would, frankly, look silly. But how do you sell a TV network on a fantasy cartoon series with a predetermined end date?

Go to Netflix.

As a platform, Netflix has proven itself to be a good fit for more unorthodox properties that would have struggled to find a network home (Stranger Things being the most recent hit example). They’re also no strangers to comic book content, with six different Marvel series in various stages of production. In addition, Netflix has a long-standing partnership with Dreamworks Animation which, okay, is responsible for a lot of bleah shows based on their movies, but also gave us the amazing reboot of Voltron. I feel confident that, with the right show runner, Bone could be another Netflix hit.

Another thing that has severely shaken up TV over the past decade is the influx of superhero programming. In the past, there were rarely more than one or two comic book-based shows at a time, and only a handful of those lasted longer than a few seasons. Now, though, superheroes are everywhere on the tube. Aside from the aforementioned Netflix shows, Marvel has Agents of SHIELD and the late, lamented Peggy Carter on ABC, a Cloak and Dagger series coming to Freeform, and Runaways was recently announced as a Hulu series. Fox has Gotham and has recently begun development of a Black Lightning series, and the CW has DC superhero shows that are all part of the same shared continuity four nights a week! If I could tell my ten-year-old self the sort of stuff I’d have on my DVR one day, he would first ask me what a DVR is, then proceed to crap his pants.

irredeemable-1But you’ll notice this superhero content is almost exclusively DC and Marvel. There’s nothing wrong with mining those universes for content, but there’s got to be room for some variety. So combining this with TV’s love for serial stories, I’d love to see Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Irredeemable make it to the screen. Originally published by BOOM! Studios, this series explores a world where the most powerful superhero of them all, the Plutonian, is driven mad and turns against the world. Although many of the themes would later show up in the better-known Injustice: Gods Among Us, Irredeemable not only did it first, but it goes to even darker places. Also, since it isn’t dependent on using the existing DC superheroes, Waid had the freedom to twist his characters in ways even Injustice wouldn’t dare to do. And finally, unlike Injustice – which will keep on going as long as the video game series it’s based on is profitable – Irredeemable had a solid ending that managed to finish with an air of hope despite the harsh world in which it was incubated. To be honest, the ending is probably the biggest strike against bringing Irredeemable to television. While it works very well in comics, there’s a strong metafictional aspect to it that may be difficult to pull off on the screen. But damn, I’d love to watch them try.

As superheroes have risen to TV prominence, there’s one other formerly-shunned format that has risen in popularity: the anthology. After FX’s popular American Horror Story began its second season by starting an entirely new story with only the faintest connective tissue to season one, there have been several popular shows that attempt the same format. Viewers now accept shows where the ongoing threads are thematic instead of following the same characters or plot, something that hasn’t been popular since the heyday of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (There have been a few popular anthologies since then – Tales From the Crypt, for example – but they’ve been pretty rare.

Anthology series allow for the same sort of storytelling as a serialized show, but on a smaller scale and with the chance to refresh and try something different each episode or each season. I can think of no comic book I’d like to see in this format more than Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.

Astro City 1Astro City, if you have somehow never read it, is a series about a superhero universe that includes pretty much all of the tropes of superhero comics, but with twists. Samaritan (the Superman analogue) is terribly lonely and wants nothing more than to fly uninterrupted. The First Family (think about the initials) is made up of old Doc Savage-style science heroes and their superpowered children and grandchildren. The city’s Darkest Knight, the Confessor, is a Catholic priest who happens to be a vampire. And the thing is, none of these characters ever take the spotlight full-time. For most of its life over the past 20 years, Astro City stories have usually been one- or two-issue affairs, with a few rare six-issue tales. The longest story to date “The Dark Age,” ran for 16 issues. Even that, though, was broken up into a quartet of four-issue “Acts” with other short stories in-between.

The stories bounce around in time, shift the focus from heroes to villains to henchmen to bystanders, and constantly reinvent the comic over and over again, a perfect format for anthology television. Imagine a season of TV based on “Confession” or “Tarnished Angel,” occasionally punctuated by one-off episodes featuring the likes of Samaritan and Winged Victory’s first date, or the hauntingly beautiful “The Nearness of You.” You can do adventure, comedy, romance, and horror all in the same series. The only constant is the city itself.

TV isn’t what it once was, but I think that, on the whole, we’re getting some of the best shows ever made right now. These three comics would make a welcome addition to an already-rich landscape.