Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DC Comics and Me # 5

Hi there! 

Today I resume this interminable trek through the overgrown pathways of my brain as I recollect on my time as a reader of DC Comics. 

Before we go back to the past, let's take a look at the present. What do I have on my pull list from DC?

Art by Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott (no relation!) 
I was sorry to see writer James Robinson walk away from this title but so far Tom Taylor is...okay, I guess. I'm a little concerned that focus has shifted from The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Doctor Fate et al, the core of Robinson's run on the title. Yep, we're getting a lot of face time with the Batman of Earth-2. Well, gotta reel the kiddies in somehow I guess. Nicola Scott continues to astonish me with her pencil work. As long as she's sticking around, I'll give Tom Taylor a little more time to convince me to stick around.

The Movement  
Art by Freddie Williams III
This has not been an easy read and I don't mean that in a good way. Trying to figure out who's who, I was dying for an old-fashion border of head shots telling me who the characters are. The thing is either Gail Simone was just starting to hit her groove or I was just figuring out what her groove was, but I was starting to enjoy the book a bit more just as word came down it was cancelled.  In this day and age, 12 issues for a book of Z list characters is pretty damn good. 

Adventures of Superman   
Art by Chris Samnee
The print version of the digital first series is about as close as I can get to what I think of as Superman. Because different writers and artists are not beholden to any specific continuity, it can be a bit disconcerting to see certain characters change from issue to issue. A recent pair of issues by Marc Guggenheim and Christos Gage had two different versions of Prof. Emil Hamilton. Still, this is a title that blows the doors off the joint as far as exploring the world of Superman. But come on, can we get a little more Clark Kent, please? 

Batman '66  
Art by Jonathan Case
When I was a kid, I loved the colorful and over the top adventures of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder on TV. Local stations would run these episodes after school and I just ate it up. Later while still young but now too cool for school, I looked down on these episodes as a mockery of the true vision of Batman as the Darknight Detective. You know the type, taking this damn comic book thing way too seriously. But maybe the ornery coot I seem to be turning in to misses those Biff! Pow! adventures starring Adam West. And Batman '66 delivers on that and more. The cool thing that writer Jeff Parker does is he employs all the tropes of the Batman TV series yet nobody comes off as a buffoon. Yeah, Batman earnestly reminds Robin of the importance of automotive safety and the use of seat belts. But he also has a cape that turns into Bat-wings when he gets into a mid-air duel with the Riddler. Batman '66 is goofy but not a goof, if that makes sense. 

Art by Greg Capullo
Of the New 52 titles, Batman was immediately on my pull list and I have not regretted it. Scott Snyder's take on Batman continues to surprise me with twists and turns in both the character himself and the city has sworn to protect. While Batman seemed in many ways the least effected by the big reboot of the New 52 relaunch, Snyder is exploring in nooks and crannies to find insightful differences to bring to light. And Greg Capullo is just magnificent. Is it too much to call Snyder & Capullo the Englehart & Rogers of the 21st Century? Maybe but damned if Scott & Greg knock it out of the park every month. 

And....that's it. I'm down to 5 DC titles. Well, 6 if I count Sandman: Overture from Vertigo.  Since I've only seen one issue so far, please understand if I forget I'm getting it.  And with The Movement going, that's down to 4 (or 5. C'mon, Gaiman!) 

I'm starting to turn my attention to other publishers and we'll talk about that at another time.  But since this post is about DC Comics and Me and I've raved about the two Batman titles I'm getting, let me turn backward to those long ago days when a young Dave-El ventured forth to see what was packed into the squeaky spinner rack at Dameron Drug

Here was my first Batman comic. 

Art by Nick Cardy 

In retrospect, it was not a great beginning, Denny O'Neil shoehorning the Penguin into his edgier take on the Batman. Somewhere along the line, Talia A Ghul shows up as part of the Penguin's plot. Of course, this was my first Batman comic so I didn't know who any of these people were. And I thought it was so cool!

Remember how part of my appeal with Superman was the idea of Clark Kent having this super secret underneath? There's a sequence in this Batman story where Dick Grayson is walking across campus when he has to spring into action as Robin. OK, Grayson's in college and I'm in grade school but my mind jumped over that gap and put myself in the middle of that action. As much as I pretended I was like Clark Kent with a Superman underneath, I knew deep down I wasn't Superman. But Robin? Robin's just a dude with a bitchin' cape! I could rock a cape like that! Well, I could. 

Irv Novick could draw one hell of a cape! 

While Batman reprints could be a bit of a mixed bag, this particular issued featured two stories that really stuck with me.  After just imagining I could be Robin in the new lead story, the reprint of "Hunt For a Robin Killer" kind of unnerved me as I saw the Boy Wonder get the crap beat out of him and Batman going a rampage to avenge him. And "Die Small, Die Big" where someone everyone ignored becomes crucial to saving the Batman's life. A powerfully written and drawn story.   

But a lot of reprints see to cast the Batman as a square jawed police officer. No, the guy I knew was the real Batman was the one by O'Neil and Novick

Art by Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin
So naturally they weren't sticking around much longer.

Next time on DC Comics and Me:

Who the hell is David V Reed? And a laughing fish shows us the way. 

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