By Matt D. Wilson
With projections showing that this week's "Man of Steel" is almost certain to be a box-office hit, and with "Iron Man 3" leading the summer box office, the question of why blockbuster comic-book movies simply aren't translating into huge superhero comic book sales is sure to pop up again!
The question has been answered and re-answered: Maybe people get all the superheroes they need in the two-hour chunks movies offer them. Maybe the barrier to entry for comics, where readers are expected to just know who characters such as say, Despero, are, even in a brand new, rebooted universe, is just too high. Maybe paying four bucks for 20 or so pages of a comic -- half an hour of reading if you're lucky -- is insane and those of us who do it are simply nuts.
Maybe we're looking at this all wrong, though. The truth of the matter is that most people who go to see superhero movies and shell out the 11 or 12 bucks to see a guy fly around in a cape for a couple hours are adults, or at the very least older teenagers with some disposable income and free rein to go see PG-13 flicks. And like it or not, those just aren't the people who are suddenly going to get way into comics.
Here's who's suddenly going to get way into comics: The people who watched "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." The kids who are watching "Teen Titans Go" now. Fans of the "DC Nation" block.
When I was a Heroes Con in Charlotte this past weekend, I was talking with some people about how publishers, specifically DC, seem to be stuck in this mode of wanting comics to be "mature" and "edgy" and "super-cool" at the expense of comics being readable and fun and a good time. If DC would simply publish a comic -- a mainline comic, not a separate just-for-kids comic that sits on an entirely different shelf from everything else -- that was as funny and good-natured as "Teen Titans Go," with those versions of the characters that date back to the original "Teen Titans" series, it'd have a nice little gateway for young readers to get into further comics down the line.
Heck, even a version of the Teen Titans that was recognizable to fans of that show would be a healthy start.
I doubt that book would be a huge sales powerhouse -- it's just not the 1990s anymore -- but it'd be a way for getting readers who actually might have an interest in trying out a whole new medium to find their way into the club. Because the lion's share of the people who are going to be packing movie theaters this weekend to see Superman fly around are already past their sell-by (or sell-to) date.
And now this week's comics!
"Superman Unchained" #1
(DC Comics, by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee)
It's great when a comic's script really plays to an artist's strengths, and this first issue of "Superman Unchained" absolutely does that, filling its first half or so with a pretty intense and really nicely drawn action sequence in which Big Blue stops a giant space station from violently colliding with Earth, saving its passengers in the process. I'm a sucker for any scene where Superman fights a sentient computer (blame my enduring love for "Superman III") and the bits of internal monologue in which Superman talks to himself as good old country boy Clark Kent offer the character a voice he hasn't really had in the New 52 so far. My only complaint would be about some of the stuff in the issue's second half. Is Lois Lane a reporter or an editor at the Daily Planet? How is she moving ads around in her bank of floating screen things? It's all pretty confusing and weird. But the action more than makes up for those foibles.
"The Black Beetle in No Way Out" #4
(Dark Horse Comics, by Francesco Francavilla)
I've been getting a kick out of this pulpy, moody miniseries since it premiered back in January, and this final issue (Francavilla does promise the character will return in another series this fall) is the perfect wrap-up to the writer/artist's experiment in radio-drama-style storytelling, right down to the hero's interference not even really making that much of a difference in the end, anyway. There's a pair of fantastic two-page spreads here in which the title character is piecing together all the details of a mystery character's identity (there are literal jigsaw pieces on the pages) that exemplify Francavilla's creative approach to the look of this comic. It's delightful.
"Thor: God of Thunder" #9
(Marvel Comics, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic)
The big confrontation this series has been building to over the past eight issues really comes to a head here, as the God Butcher, Gorr, comes face-to-face with three Thors from three different time periods. Not only does Aaron nail the different voices for the young, old, and current Thors, he also even manages to make Gorr just a hint of a sympathetic character in the opening pages. It's an astronomically big comic about a very personal fight, and those are the ingredients for a pretty great comics story. It helps that Esad Ribic is about as divine as an artist can be on this book, too.
The Manhattan Projects #12
(Image Comics, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra)
Sometimes I think this series can't get any crazier, and then Enrico Fermi turns out to be an alien. I love this comic.
(DC Comics, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo)
The more I have to go through the process of selecting losers for this column, the weirder I feel about it. I definitely had problems with the first chapter of "Zero Year," namely that it felt pretty disjointed. It has flashbacks on top of flashbacks, action sequences that require rereading a few times to understand, and that "What do you love about the city, Bruce?" page that doesn't make sense until a few pages later. Ultimately, I think that's the problem. This is the first part in an 11-part story, and Snyder and Capullo's approach to it is one that jumps around a lot. It's somewhat similar to the approach Snyder and Sean Murphy took to last week's "The Wake," but where mere glimpses of what's to come make for an effective time-spanning horror story, it makes trying to get into a brand-new origin tale for Batman a little frustrating. Of course, my mind may change completely once I see what's coming in the next few months. That's why this part's so tough.