I am watching “Necessary Evil : Super-Villains of DC Comics. It’s a terrific hour and forty look at the creativity and psychology behind DC’s baddies!

I am watching “Necessary Evil : Super-Villains of DC Comics. It’s a terrific hour and forty look at the creativity and psychology behind DC’s baddies!

DrNorge on October 20th, 2013 | File Under Biting the Bullet | 1 Comment -

Direct Currents 2.0 Week of September 9th 2013

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Direct Current 2.0

 

Week of September 9th, 2013

 

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and Marriage oh my!

 

By Jim Durdan

 

Item 1: A few weeks ago IDM release the latest version of the classic T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic (Hereafter called Thunder Agents). IF you are not familiar with this wonderful title then you really need to find either the archive editions that DC published or check the back issue bins of your local comic shop.

 

The premise of the team is that they all have unique powers given to them by a piece of technology that they were. Be it super strength, the ability to fly, read minds and a few other powers. The down side is that every time they use the power they run the risk of killing themselves, because the tech in question is deadly over time. In one case the technology granted it’s user super speed, but at the cost of rapidly aging the wearer.

 

The creators of Thunder Agents read like a who’s who of comicdoms elite.  They were created by Wally Wood and Len Brown. Over the years people like Gil Kane, Steve Ditko, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and a host of others have been part of the creative team that has make Thunder Agents one of the most overlooked classics of the silver and bronze age.

 

Originally Thunder Agents came from a small publisher, Tower Comics in the sixties and was a more or less hit or miss proposition. Months would go by without an issue being published.  Eventually Tower would fold, and Thunder would, over the next 4 decades be published by a half a dozen companies, some maintaining the style and tone of the original comics, others only using the Characters as little more than chess pieces to tell a rather uninteresting story with an agenda (Solsons Productions rant on the Reagan era is something to read if you ever want to know how to NOT do a Thunder Agents book). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.H.U.N.D.E.R._Agents

 

Eventually the property found its way to DC. Two miniseries were produced in 2010 and 2011. In general the feel of the series stayed true to the original Thunder Agents, but the tone of amazement and joy found in the original series were gone. I think in time DC might have been able to reinvent the team in a way that felt fresh without ignoring all that had gone before. Unfortunately we will never know. Retail sales just were not there, and DC either opted not to pursue a continuing licensing agreement or just cut its loses and released the license. Either way the latest version of the Agents is now at IDW and it’s a mixed bag at best.

Read More »

Jim Durdan on September 8th, 2013 | File Under Direct Currents 2.0 | No Comments -

Direct Current 2.0 Week of August 18th, 2013

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Direct Current 2.0

 

Week of August 18, 2013

 

Something not so funny happened on the way to reading my comics.

 

By Jim Durdan

 

 

His is an opinion piece, and as such it is MY opinion, not Sean’s, not Jim’s, mine. Some of you are going to read this and probably not be happy with me, others are going to read and say who cares. Hopefully one of you will read this and say, your right.  If the hobby we are passionate about is to grow and survive deep into this century and the next, we NEED to re-evaluate why young readers aren’t attracted to comics. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Captain America, The Hulk and a whole encyclopedia of others are the modern equivalent to the tales of Homer; they are our Iliad and Beowulf.  If people 100 years from now still care about them as we do today, we need to make sure that others that come after us love them as we do. Right now that is doubtful………….

 

When I was a kid nothing would irk me as much as my Dad calling my comics, funny books. I was never sure if he was deriding my interest in them, or if he really called them funny books. It was only later in life, that I realized that when my dad was a young child, there were no “comic” books as we know them today, (Dad was born in 1917), but that era’s equivalent to our comics was indeed funny books. They were magazines that simply reprinted the “funny” pages of newspapers, therefore funny books. I am sure there are those today who cringe when we call them Comic Books, the new, stylish term is Graphic Novel.  But be they “Funny Books”. “Comic Books” or “Graphic Novels” they are a unique American art form that has survived for almost 100 years. However, unless things begin to change, at least somewhat, the longevity of Comics as a story telling form has to be in question.

 

In the mid to late 30’s the modern comic was born, featuring new materiel, which lead to the rise of the modern superhero books.  But somewhere since then, something has gone wrong, very wrong.  Comics of yore clear cut, with no grey. Right always won, and we always knew who was right. There was never a question as to if Superman or Batman were wrong. It just wasn’t going to happen.

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Jim Durdan on August 22nd, 2013 | File Under Direct Currents 2.0 | No Comments -

DC Currents 2.0 Week of August 10th, 2013

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Week of August 10, 2013

Where the author comes back from the missing and talks about a Fox.

By Jim Durdan

So something funny happened on the way to the creation of this column, I got a new job. Sometimes things are just meant to happen and this was one of those times. I was called in for an interview on a Monday, and by 5 PM on that Tuesday I had a new job in an industry I have worked in and loved. I am currently an assistant director at a large publishing company that specializes in trade publications, indeed I am now working on the largest trade publication of its kind in the US.

Because of my suddenly found and renewed career I found myself with way too much to do this week and not enough time to do it. So, unfortunately, the column was pushed back till this weekend.  In the future Direct Currents 2.0 will be moving from a Tuesday publication date to a Saturday/Sunday date. This will also allow me to take a look at what was published during the week and comment on it. So, that you for the patience, and a huge thank you to Sean and Jim for understating about the lateness of the project.  Saluda to all of you!

One of the reasons I wanted to do a weekly gig involving DC Comics was that on occasion I wanted to take a look back at the past and help “flesh out” some of the creative genius that has gone before the modern era.  But, and this was very important to me, I didn’t want to do the usual articles that pop up all the time talking about Siegel and Shuster or Bob Kane, or Jack “The King” Kirby, I wanted to take a look at some of the creative forces that have so shaped the modern era, but have, by and large, been forgotten by modern fans.  This article is the first of those that will look back and throw a spotlight and forgotten genius.

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Jim Durdan on August 11th, 2013 | File Under Direct Currents 2.0 | No Comments -

Direct Currents 2.0 7/30/2013 Week 3

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Week of July 31, 2013

 

DC Comics at 100, you are looking great for your age!

 

By Jim Durdan

 

OK, before anyone gets to irate and begins to protest that DC Comics is only 75 years old, I already know that. The 100 I mention is that this is the 100th week for the New 52. 23 months ago DC launched its experiment in rebooting the whole line.

 

With the release this week of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox I thought it would be a good time to take a look back over the last two years and see how things have shaped up, where they may be going, and where there might be some room for improvement.

 

I think most people agree that DC did this to bolster sales. While DC and Marvel constitute the big 2, DC is always the 2 in that statement.  For example in July 2011, the last month before the reboot Marvel had a market share of 39.43% as opposed to DC’s 30.55%. (http://www.newsarama.com/8145-no-dcnu-effect-in-july-2011-sales-spider-island-rules.html) Historically this is on par for the differences between the two companies over the last decade plus.

 

If you jump ahead to October 2011, a full month into the launch of the new 52, something remarkable happened.  DC had 42.47% of the market to Marvels 29.1%. That is a huge shift. Within 2 months DC collapsed Marvels share of the market by 5o%. (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/11/04/dc-smashes-marvel-marketshare-in-october-taking-51-of-sales/) It would seem that the relaunch was a great success at least in the short term. But now we are two years down the road, what do the numbers look like now?

 

In June of this year, which is the latest numbers we have available, DC’s share of the market is 32.03% while Marvels is 38.09% So the effect of the New 52 revamp is still there, but it is much smaller than it used to be. DC is selling more books than it did pre 52, but nowhere near the numbers October 2011. Why? There are a myriad of reasons. The most important being that a lot of people bought into the hype of the 52 launch, people who hadn’t read comics in years came back and bought the first few issues, and then they lapsed, and walked away again.  Another reason, and one that is hard to determine the qualitative effect of, is the unevenness of some of the titles. There is no doubt that the creative teams on Action, Superman, Detective and Batman brought their “A” games. The same cannot be said for other titles. I have said in the past that I will not be a force of negativity on the internet, there is way to much of that as it is, but sometimes you just have to call it like you see it. Some of the relaunched titles were just not very well thought out.

Read More »

DrNorge on July 30th, 2013 | File Under Direct Currents 2.0 | No Comments -

Direct Current 2.0

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Direct Current 2.0

By Jim Durdan

Week of July 24, 2013

Psst, Hey you, Want a copy of Action Comics #1 cheap!

In the last 10 years the world of Comic Book publishing has forever been changed by the advent of the Digital Comic Book. Within the last few years same day availability has sparked renewed interest in our beloved hobby.  According to the publisher in 2012 digital sales accounted for $75 million dollars of DC sales, a 200% increase. That is an incredible jump, and certainly bodes well for the future of DC (http://venturebeat.com/2012/11/07/dc-digital-comics-sales-2012/) . But it does raise an interesting question. What about the back issue market? Sure I can get a copy of Catwoman #22 in digital format, but what happens if I want to get a copy of Catwoman’s first appearance in in Batman #1 from Spring 1940? In a search of the DC app it doesn’t appear.  Neither does it appear on Comixology.  I could go out and buy it; a near mint book is only worth $120,000. But I don’t have that much open on my debit card.

Batman #1 is only one example out of thousands of comic books that don’t have a digital presence. Both DC and Marvel have a huge catalog of back issues that do not exist is digital form.  Marvel has made a modest start with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, but it contains a small fraction of the publishers back catalog. DC has done far less.

If digital comics are to continue to grow at a healthy rate I submit that publishers have to begin to address the great digital divide that is the back issue marketplace. Many comic book readers are collectors, they have long boxes full of comics. For those who have switched over to the Brave New World of digital comics they are now in a situation where they have all of their new issues on their Ipad, Android or Laptop, and all their old issues in paper (to be called floppies for the rest of the column.)  It’s like having some of you favorite movies on VHS tape and some on Blu-Ray.  Indeed that is a very apt analogy. The movie industry realized that for people to adopt the new technologies of DVD or Blu Ray they had to reissue classic films in the new formats.  It worked and people adopted these technologies. There was one other thing that the movie studios did, the lowered the price on these classics to basically the cost of burning and printing the disc and the disc sleeves. Read More »

Jim Durdan on July 22nd, 2013 | File Under Direct Currents 2.0 | 6 Comments -

Direct Currents 2.0 Week of July 17th, 2013

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Direct Current 2.0

Week of July 17, 2013

Where the new guy introduces himself and Bewares’ the Batman!

Welcome one and all to the first of what I hope to be many weekly columns focusing on the DC Universe. My thanks go to Sean and Jim for letting me use a little corner of the internet to ruminate on DC Comics, its past, it’s present and what I hope will be its future.  Before we start that however let me fill you in a little about who I am and how I got here.

My name, like the great Sensi is also Jim. I am 49 this year and live in Maine with my great wife Clarissa, two wonderful children and two grandchildren, along with 2 semi psychotic dogs.

I started collecting comics back in the early seventies and had a pretty good collection going by the time I went to college back in 1981. Then like many collectors I know, disaster struck, and my collection was destroyed by a huge force of nature, my mother. I am sure many of you can relate to the fact that parents have more destructive power when it comes to collections then the Joker and Lex Luthor combined! A small part of the collection survived and I built that back up until I had over 30,000 individual issues at the beginning of this year. But that’s another story, one that I hope to get into in the next few weeks as I want to discuss take the rise of digital comics and the comparative disaster that is the back issue market place.

During the 90’s and up until 2009 I was a frequent customer at numerous comic shops in New England and began to discover that I was a fairly unique comic fan. While I did collect comics from other companies (Marvel, Dynamite, Charton, First, to name a few) I was a DC Fan. Marvel fans then, as well as now, were a huge part of comics fandom, DC fans were not as prevalent.

I took it upon myself to evangelize for DC Comics. In the early part of the 21st century I was given the opportunity to work for the website Toonzone (http://www.toonzone.com) as a forum administrator in their comics’ forum. I began to review comics, or perhaps over review them! In some instances my reviews went to almost 17 pages. That was a lot of work, but I loved it. Every single review I did was of a DC Comic. I started talking about DC Direct as well.

After 2 years at Toonezone I moved over to a new site, Comics News International, which no longer exists as far as I can tell. I was there for the launch as the General Editor and Chief reporter.  I lasted there about 6 months when I realized that I was spending more time working with them, and less with my family. Read More »

Jim Durdan on July 16th, 2013 | File Under Columns, Direct Currents 2.0 | No Comments -

Wow! Gail Simone off Batgirl. I am stunned and very sad.

For long time listeners of the show, it will come as no big shock that I am a huge fan of the work of Gail Simone. I was introduced to her talent on her first run of Birds of Prey and her work really hit me. Since then, I have enjoyed incredible work on All New Atom, Secret Six (Short list of one of my all time favorite series), Batgirl plus so much more in minis, one shots, and more in and our of DC.

I am baffled at the decision to remove her from Batgirl. More than that, I am anxiously awaiting the chance to read Leaving Megalopolis and to follow her to whatever new projects will be announced. She is a stellar talent and this next phase of her professional career is sure to pay off for long time fans and new readers that she will pick up along the way. I thank her for the amazing work she has given us so far. Here’s to the future!

DrNorge on December 9th, 2012 | File Under Biting the Bullet | No Comments -

Kickstarter is putting the band back together for Secret Six Fans!

Kickstarter is putting the band back together for Secret Six Fans

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2069222802/leaving-megalopolis?ref=live

Over the past few years, you may have heard Jim and I talk at length about our love for Secret Six. It was original, edgy, featured amazing character depth and amazing art. This was a book that really enjoyed immense creative energy. Secret Six is the type of book that comes around every so often that reminds me why comics are the place that I have found mind blowing content since the 70’s.
I’ve made no secret of my admiration of the writing prowess of Gail Simone. I fondly remember her first issue of Birds of Prey and how I immediately felt something special in the way her stories were crafted to really get to the heart of the emotional core of these characters. Gail is one of those writers who really works hard to understand who the characters are. Then she takes you on a journey with them that you and the characters never expected. She takes them there in a way that makes you feel like you are another passenger in the car hanging out with two friends who you really don’t want to admit you like. (I’m talking to you Catman and Deadshot.)

That brings me to the talent that is Jim Calafiore. I first had the chance to experience his work during his time with Peter David on the amazing Aquaman run. I had read an issue here and there of Aquaman previously. I never had the budget to really follow it further, so it wasn’t a statement on the quality of what I had read. I knew the character from Super Friends but knew little of his world other than Black Manta was his enemy and he talked to fish.

When crafting an undersea world, the right artist knows how to give you that sense of wonder. He can deliver a sense of motion, action and drama that fits the location, tone and style of the book. I refer to that run regularly on the podcast because it holds a special place on a short list of favorites for me. Jim’s art was a huge part of helping me get to know who the whole supporting cast. (Dolphin rocked by the way!) When he came on Secret Six, he brought and showed his continued evolution as an artistic talent. This book was perfection to me with Nicola Scott on the art chores and Jim continued that same high quality. Jim knows how to create beauty while telling an amazing visual story.

The announcement that when this Kickstarter crosses the $92,000 mark, it will bring colorist Jason Wright on board motivated me to give another heavy shout out to this awesome Kickstarter. I am a school teacher and not an artist but I know when an art team really hits me in a way that sticks with me. Jason Wright’s color work on Secret Six really had to match the emotional tone that was being delivered by all other members of the creative process. Secret Six gave us wicked action, buddy cop style action drama, some of the nastiest villain moments you could ever read, and a cast of characters that somehow became endearing even when they shouldn’t. Jason’s colors had to match those moods and many many more. (Often these were jumping out of multiple panels on the same page because this book delivered a great deal of content each month.)
When I sat down to write this, I truly meant to do a quick shout out to Leaving Megalopolis, in hopes of on some small level pointing friends of our show to this campaign if they missed our previous shout outs on the podcast. It turned quickly into a love letter to these creators, Secret Six and hopefully a chance for some of you who were on the fence to jump on this project so you don’t miss out. This team has shown what a unique experience can be with Secret Six. I can’t wait to see what they do with Leaving Megalopolis.

“When the caped heroes of the world’s safest city inexplicably all turn into homicidal lunatics, no one is safe.” I mean come on. It’s survival horror where the last remaining normal humans have to face a world where Superheroes made it a perfect place but now they have snapped. How can you not want to read that? 80 pages of hard hitting comic drama is coming our way.

DrNorge on September 4th, 2012 | File Under Biting the Bullet | No Comments -

Strong Will Preview: This Graphic Novel looks really amazing.

With the podcast schedule, I don’t often get the chance to shout out upcoming work that I get to see outside of DC.

http://bobby-nash-news.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-strong-will-sneak-peek.html

This preview of Strong Will really stood out for me. It is put together by friends from the fantastic Earth Station One Podcast. Please give it a look and support them.

Sean

DrNorge on July 17th, 2012 | File Under Biting the Bullet | No Comments -