Gauntlet of the Geek: Are Licensed Comic Books Good for the Industry?

“Gauntlet of the Geek” is a new featured article where two of our writers debate on hot button issues in today’s nerd industry. We’re not paid to kiss ass, so see what happens when the white gloves come off and we let you all know how we really feel. Let us know whom you agree with.

Sherif’s opinion:

For the last 30-40 years in pop culture, one thing has remained constant – franchises survive. Think of your favorite fandoms – how many of them are new to the last twenty years? Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Doctor Who, Disney…all of them have survived generations because of the way they replicate onto different mediums of consumption. Sure, tribal upbringing accounts for a fair amount of the influence, but these franchises, now corporations built off the blood money of thousands of parents desperate to immerse their offspring in the same stuff. And those blessed corporations care enough about we the consumer to keep putting out fresh material to relate one generation to the next, keeping these beloved fandoms alive. Where would TMNT be without the new Nickelodeon series? I’ll tell you where. In the retro section of a fucking Hot Topic, that’s where. Let’s not forget that the stuff kids find cool is only cool because television, movies, and toy stores tell them it’s cool. We’re just more accepting of it because we find it cool, too.

This is the price we have to pay to keep TMNT relevant.
This is the blood price we have to pay to keep TMNT relevant.

One of the best side effects of licensed comic books is the amount of pull and resources that it gives the creators. For example, the mountains of merchandising money that Disney and WB give Marvel and DC, respectively, have opened up the doors for them to take chances on titles for the lesser-known titles (like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel – both of which have had HUGE success). It’s not so much making people who watch Iron Man want to pick up Extremis, but using the resources that the Iron Man movie’s exposure brings in to reallocate and try something new (which I admit is a doey-eyed way to look at the world. We all know these corporations don’t give a crap about us). Think of it as drug dealers buying winter clothing for local school children with their drug money.

I look at licensed comic books the same way I look at the honorary torch carrier at the Olympics. They shouldn’t be regarded with the elite status they once were. X-Files and Star Trek comic books should not be competing with Saga and D4VE, nor should they be marketed as such. Licensed comic books should be designed to engage readers to narrow the gaps between fandoms. One fan who loves comics but doesn’t know anything about Ghostbusters now has input to a conversation about those who love the movies but aren’t into comic books. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens.

How can you not be excited for this?? And how is Batman not impressed??
How can you not be excited for this?? And how is Batman not impressed??

However, the key is knowing when and how to bring some of the lesser-known books back into the spotlight. Unfortunately for us, there are some publishers out there who are filling nearly their entire catalog with 80’s franchises that just don’t fit in today, let alone in the comic book format. If you’re immediately thinking of IDW Publishing and Dynamite Entertainment, you’d be correct. A Django/Zorro crossover? A Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure 3? Escape From New York? Angry Birds?? You get the point. Since Image’s recent explosion of actual content in creator-owned titles, the smaller guys (BOOM!, IDW, Dynamite, Titan) have all resorted to making these kind of unnecessary branded titles part of their flagship titles, which can only end up giving the industry creative constipation.

Was it popular once? IDW will give it a miniseries!
Was it popular once? IDW will give it a miniseries!

With the successful integration of comic books into mainstream media, it’s only natural that these corporations would try to capitalize on the success of these franchises. Each of your favorite franchises began as a lowly “hopeful,” and while some of the crappier ones might be here for now, only the great ones remain. It’s how Buffyverse is still running. It’s how A Song of Ice and Fire will likely continue after George R. R. Martin ends the saga. Licensed comic books let creators continue telling stories even when they think nobody is listening anymore.

by Sherif Elkhatib

Montgomery’s opinion:
Let me get this out in the open right off the bat: licensed comics are terrible. It’s hard to pin down exactly why, but I’m going to see if I can narrow it down to a few easily observed facts. And before you get all uppity with me and shriek in your halting bat language, “But Montgomery! Don’t you semi-regularly gush about one or more Transformers comics?” I do. But that doesn’t mean the genre is redeemed, and it doesn’t make me a hero: it just means I’m weak, along with everyone else who bought Super Pro.
super pro
The Properties
Perhaps the most glaring issue right from the start is the properties they insist on convincing us are worth reading. I referenced Super Pro, but have you ever actually seen it? This is taking up space on Marvel’s hard drives as we speak.I mean, as someone who takes football very seriously (read: I don’t take it seriously at all), this is the thing I buy to reassure myself that I can be taken seriously as a human who breathes air on this planet. I mean, check out those cute Puritan-influenced cleats he’s wearing. This is a man’s comic, no doubt. But seriously folks, more often than not, a licensed comic is nothing but a cynical cash grab from one giant corporation to another. There’s no love of either art going into it, and then you’re forced to ask: “Who’s supposed to want to buy this?” I mean, the love fans of football have for comics is legendary, and the stereotype of the football playing comic nerd is so old it’s almost worn out (not to editor: forgot my sarcasm tags). But it doesn’t stop there. Love the music of Kiss? Well now you can enjoy their nuanced aesthetic with none of their complicated rhyme scheme.
kiss comics
The Writing
A misguided relative actually bought me Super Pro #1. I read it because what, am I actually going to play football? Hell to the no. It’s a story that’s nearly impossible to resurrect from the graveyard of my prepubescent memory, but one thing was painfully clear even to my eight year-old brain: this was a comic written neither for fans of football, nor fans of comics. And that’s a problem deeply inherent to the genre. Because, more often than not, the cross polinization of properties is just an attempt to capitalize on something that’s already profitable, the resultant product cannot be something the violates the spirit of either thing. It cannot offend the sensibilities of either fan base, but that almost curses it to appealing to neither fan base. Super Pro, if you care (which you almost certainly don’t) is the tragic story of a football player who gets injured nearly to death. He’s brought back from the brink courtesy of a mechanical football uniform so that he can continue… to… play football? But then realizes he’s more than just feetsballs throw man, and fights… crime? I mean, apart from about fifteen moments where I have to stop and ask, “Uh, why?”, that premise sounds like it comes straight from the mouth of that uncle we all have who hates comics and doesn’t respect us for our love. Because the end result shits on the heads of anyone who might possibly want it, every step toward that end result is just as insulting and just as steamy.Oh so, I guess I’ll just buy an adaptation of the thing I already have?!transformers the movie the comic book
Perhaps the most prevalent reason for licensed comics is the disease like pervasive presence of the “based on the hit movie” comic.Oh good, now I can be irritated, frustrated, and repulsed by one thing in two mediums.This is the point where I also have to stipulate that just because something sells, it does not mean it’s qualitatively good. I mean, everyone’s mom has a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey stashed under their mattress, but it’s not winning any awards any time soon. Right? God I hope not. I have to make that clear because comics are experiencing a sort of rebirth thanks to the herpes-like proliferation of comic book movies.

"Marvel: the herpes of comic books, but for movies."
“Marvel: the herpes of comic books, but for movies.”

I guess on one hand I have to be thankful for terrible ideas like the Avengers movie tie-in comic, but why does such a thing exist in the first place? “Duh, Montgomery,” you might start, “because people who saw the movie might want to get into comics, and this is their way in, you dumb sack of crap,” you might finish. And very rudely, I might add. And in your very rude retort (seriously, guy), you’ve proven my point: they’ve already seen the movie. Who needs to buy this comic? Apart from the compulsive collector, is there really an audience of people who like the idea of an Avengers movie enough to buy a comic based on the movie, but not enough to buy the actual comics that have been running for 50 years or to spend the $10 to see the movie in the theater? It’s a bizarre monster we’ve lived with all our lives but haven’t really noticed.

There are other reasons why licensed comics are terrible. The fact that tie-ins are often made before the movie knows what they’re doing, so you wind up with weird anachronisms; the art is just the worst, like really, do they even care; the fact that the licensed property is fenced-in so fiercely that even if it were a good idea in the first place, they don’t have much space to play around in. Really, we could talk until all the oxygen is gone, but just these three reasons should be enough to convince you to put down that comic book prequel to Transformers 5: Planet of The Earth and invest in some stocks. Or something.

by JH Montgomery

Why Have Only 8 DC Comics Been Cancelled?

It was announced a couple days ago that five DC Comics titles: Justice League United, Lobo, Doomed, The Omega Men, and Gotham by Midnight have all been cancelled. And just yesterday, three more books followed: Batman ’66, Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern: The Lost Army. Cue sad violin music. Did anybody read those books? Is anybody sad that they are over? Only two of those books interested me enough to read issue #1, and then I was done.

With so much troubling DC Comics these days, it seems only natural that a handful of the metaphorical fecal matter they threw at the drawing board would continue to slide off and plop sadly on the floor. From the time of its half-assed “re-relaunch” following Convergence (see: “DC’s Convergence, What the Hell Was that About?“) – another failed direction, DC has unashamedly spewed out over a dozen titles that nobody really asked for. For an audience that doesn’t care anymore. From a pool of creators that have all but abandoned the company for either a fresher idea or more pay – sometimes a combination of both. It was recently revealed through Bleeding Cool just how much more Wytches creator Scott Snyder takes home on his own book versus Batman, even though the latter is a constant Top-10 seller. Sometimes, as in Rick Remender’s case, it’s for the freedom of schedule and peace of mind that the smaller, independent companies give them. Whatever the reason, we (well, DC really) need to face the fact that they are losing the comic book game. Badly.

I hope at least someone stays up at night thinking, "Oh god, why?"
Yeah, not so much…

As much fun as it is to kick DC while they’re down, it does sadden me. I’m a DC fan. Like, a FAN. Just in the New52, I remember how bugged out I was that the Joker cut his face off. I read on as Wonder Woman killed (and then became) a God. I remember being legitimately upset that Geoff Johns was ending his run on Green Lantern. I even remember how they almost made Aquaman cool after decades of ridicule. Almost. Point being, the New52 had some great moments, but DC in general seems to really be left behind when it comes to the metamorphosis happening in the industry right now.

teen titans 1 cover
Thats a hot 16 yr old ya got there…

Whether it’s intention, or even deserved, DC has become the New England Patriots of the industry when it comes to offending people. From Batgirl to Teen Titans, DC has become that womanizing friend from high school you don’t want to bring around your wife. Whatever cultural revolution the industry is experiencing, whether it be LGBT, ethnic diversity, more women characters and creators, more stories from more walks of life… DC is largely missing out on it. Of all the current books on its roster, only a few really stick out to me as amazing, special, or even enjoyable:

         Batman: Snyder/Capullo are one of the best creative teams in the biz.
         Batgirl: Cameron Stewart/Babs Tarr know how to bring the cute, but still keep it engaging.
         Deathstroke: Tony Daniel’s baby is a gore-fest. A splendiferous one.
         Justice League: Geoff Johns knows how to write a comic book.
         Prez: The only non-superhero book in DC’s lineup. Mark Russell’s commentary is spot-on.
         Superman: John Romita Jr. has almost single-handedly made Superman cool again
         We Are Robin: Brian Azzarello is reading the teenage tech revolution.
         Wonder Woman: David and Meredith Finch write a good story; the art is reason enough to read.

Aside from Batgirl and Prez, my readership of every book on this list can be accredited to an established creative team behind it. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of skilled creators in DC’s stable, but a majority of the books that follow long-time characters fall flat with cliché villains, zero fallout from shock value-driven story arcs, and constant reboot syndrome.

It’s not like DC doesn’t want to keep up with the times; they’ve made several attempts to be “cool” again, most notably DCYOU. They rolled out the carpet for a line of new books recently that include more diverse characters, but even the promising ones (Dr. Fate, Justice League 3001, Bizarro, DC Bombshells, Cyborg) are being drowned out in the white noise of all the other uninspiring crap they release each week.

DC Bombshells #2
Two girls worth fighting for.

Marvel is constantly kicking DC’s ass in sales, and it’s embarrassing. Many long-time “old-school” fans have been vocal against a PC movement in the industry, but clearly they are not buying these books either, so the head cheeses at DC are going to have to rethink what is important to the brand. And that’s where I have the most faith. DC has Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, and the entire power of Warner Bros. at their disposal, so there’s no reason that the actual comic book aspect of the company should be doing so poorly.

The upcoming months have enough new and different content to get readers excited, and the collectible lines that DC keeps putting out prove that fans absolutely love the franchise. Even with Vertigo’s Fables closing the book at issue #150, it might not be time to hit the panic button. In the next few months, the market will be flooded with new, unique content that doesn’t have to do with superheroes at all, as well as some that are. In a time before any of us were born (apologies to the 80 year-old readers we have out there!), Detective Comics survived before the concept of a superhero existed. After all, Batman can’t carry the entire company by himself… can he?

Comic Book Power Rankings – August 2015

Nobody here at Hush Comics loves sports metrics more than I do. A die-hard NBA fan, I frequently rank players, teams and track stats every night to see who I should be picking up on the waiver wire (a term I know, but still do not understand at all) in our fantasy basketball league. It’s not really to be the best, but largely because I love the processes behind it; I love spreadsheets and systemic processes in how I arrive at these decisions. I even made a House of Quality together in order to break down which qualities I value in comic book series. This was all inspired by the creation of our Best of 2014 Comic Books collection of articles (which you should check out! A lot of hard work from our team went into those articles), when I realized that we had not been keeping track of which books were the best throughout the year.

Below is a list of what I consider the Top 20 comic books of the previous month. The opinions of these rankings is solely mine (unless noted), although they are influenced by the weekly review grades that our team doles out. I’m no expert on the ins and outs of the comic book industry, and I admittedly can’t read every book out there, but as long as I have this awesome platform to force my opinion on readers, why not use it? As always, we LOVE sparking conversations about the things we love, or even the things we don’t, so commentary is encouraged!

Rank Book Title Publisher Issues In Previous Movement
1 Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra Marvel 1
  He’s just a normal family guy, trying to cut it in the blue collar goon industry. Trying to place the normal within the insanity that is Battle World creates comedy gold.
2 Prez DC 3
  As far as political satires go, Prez is hands down the funniest, and is so hyperbolic that the fact that it’s relatable at all is appalling. Root for the little guy in one of DC’s rare non-cape books.
3 Rasputin Image 8
  Rasputin is my favorite comic at the moment. So far it’s the only book that’s compelled me to send fan mail. It’s a well written narrative, beautifully drawn, and spectacularly colored. I get something out if every issue I read and feel satisfied. Totally in love with this series. – Jené
4 Ms. Marvel Marvel 17
  Although Kamala briefly got caught in the web that is Secret Wars, her last issue, a heart-warming team up with Captain Marvel herself gave this book a special place on my shelf.
5 The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Marvel 8
  Three of the top five books are led by young women. Coincidence? Hell no! Squirrel Girl is hilarious and relatable – which says a lot since… ya know, she’s a squirrel.
6 TMNT IDW 49
  Not even shell-shock could stop Donnie! Things are getting heavy as a battle royale contest between the turtles and Foot knock down the door of the upcoming #50 spectacular.
7 Justice League DC 43 5 -2
  This is the best JL story since Forever Evil, and the most desparate time we’ve seen the team in of all New52. Geoff Johns continues to write an amazing book.
8 Batman DC 43 2 -6
  This is not the same book we read with Endgame. Bruce is in identity crisis mode and Gordon has taken over as Batman. Wacky story aside, Snyder/Capullo produce.
9 We Stand On Guard Image 3
  With the right creative team, even Canadians can be interesting. Brian K Vaughan’s new title makes you hate America more effectively than Donald Trump’s presidential run.
10 Bizarro DC 3
  Bizarro no am good book. Bizarro am very bad book. Book no am funny. Art is very ugly. Bizarro very normal, and Jimmy Olson (Bizarro’s worstest enemy) never wear disguises. Bizarro no am have hijinks. – Montgomery
11 Superman DC 43 8 -3
  We finally learned how Lois spilled the beans about Superman’s identity, and it’s refreshing to see Superman fight an enemy he can’t defeat by punching.
12 Old Man Logan Marvel 4
  While I love seeing an out-of-place Wolverine wander around Battle World in a confused rage, it’s Andrea Sorrentino’s panel layout that really keeps me engaged.
13 Groot Marvel 3
  As much as I loved the recently-retired Skottie Young Rocket Raccoon book, Groot is just as adorable. It’s good for all ages, with feel-good lessons in friendship and kindness. Aww.
14 Deadly Class Image 15 5 -9
  While the Remender/Craig tag-team reigns champion, I can’t get over just how scathingly manic-depressive this book got this month. It’s a downer for sure.
15 Nailbiter Image 15 16 +1
  The deeper we keep falling into the mystery, the further the bottom seems to be. It’s a phenomenal book, but I feel just as lost now as I did at square one.
16 The Walking Dead Image 145 4 -12
  I still look forward to this book every month, but the more I read it, the more I realize that Robert Kirkman is becoming George Lucas 2.0. There’s just too much TWD in the world for me right now. That being said, this new threat is gonna bring back the funk.
17 E is for Extinction Marvel 3
  Thank you, Chris Burnham, for making unsexy comic books cool. His raw art is perfect for this post-Morrison, Morrison-style book, which is as awesome as it is awkward.
18 Giant Sized Little Marvel AvX Marvel 3
  This book makes me feel like vomitting rainbows with each issue. It can be formulaic, but it’s just so darn cute – how could anybody not love this??
19 Postal Image 19 11 -8
  Mark, the autistic one-man Scooby gang, is tearing this conspiracy wide open. Although, just because it’s getting bigger doesn’t mean it’s getting better…
20 Batgirl DC 43
  It can be silly at times, but that’s part of the charm. Babs Tarr’s art has definitely grown on me. I’m fully on-board after some post-Gail Simone withdrawals.

 

Notably absent:

Most of the Secret Wars: I’m burnt out on Secret Wars. Marvel must be murdering DC in sales as of late, but their long game is tiring fans out.

Shutter and Birthright: For books that started as two of my favorite Image titles, the convoluted stories in both books have derailed their momentum significantly. I don’t expect that too last, though, as both books have the creative teams to handle it.

Wonder Woman: David and Meredith Finch have been a refreshing addition to the book, but the last couple issues have been noticeably lacking in substance or style. Plus, Donna Troy is completely one-dimensional and incapable of independent thought.

Retired books/ Hiatuses (Hawkeye, Saga, Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals): Some of the best books in the biz took the month off, making way for some newcomers to really shine this month!

BREAKING: Constantine to Join ‘Arrow’ Cast

So...much...awesome...
So…much…awesome…

IT’S REALLY HAPPENING GUYS!! CONSTANTINE LIVES!!

The CW announced today that there will indeed be an Arrow/Constantine crossover in season 4. As of right now Matt Ryan (John Constantine) is only set for a one shot episode, but with any luck he could become a returning character. Hell, they brought Cupid back right?

Season 4 will explore more of the mysticism and magic that surfaced in Season 3 of Arrow, so Constantine should fit right in. If he proves a strong ally, hopefully we’ll get to see a whole lot more of him.

I’d like to personally thank Stephen Amell for this one. He was such a vocal part of the Save Our Show effort on Twitter and he really got people talking about a future for the super underrated cult TV show.

SDCC 2015 – Geoff Johns Announces ‘Justice League: Gods and Men’

 

Justice League - Gods and Men
Image belongs to DC Comics

Geoff Johns will be leading the new series Justice League: Gods and Men.

The series will be a six-part mini-series that focuses on the aftermath of the current arc “Darkseid War.”

Each issue will focus on the personal issues of a specific character after the war between Darkseid and Anti-Monitor.

The characters who will have a focus are: Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Shazam!, and Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor’s story seems very interesting; he is still evil and tries to get Darkseid’s power, but he also may be the only one to stop Superman when the Man of Steel gets god-like strength.

The first issue will be out October of this year, but there is no word on creative teams.

Source: CBR

SDCC 2015 – Milestone Media Coming Back to DC Comics

Static
Image belongs to DC Comics and Milestone Media

Milestone Media, the company who brought you Static, Icon, and Xombi (and a myriad of other titles) is teaming back up with DC to bring back beloved characters in the DC Multiverse “Earth-M.”

Creators of the new Milestone publications will include Milestone co-founder Denys Cowan, Milestone 2.0 partner Reginald Hudlin, DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns,and DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee.

Milestone co-founder Derek T. Dingle said, “We have to keep this company alive. We have to maintain diversity in this industry.”

“Earth-M” stories will be told in two graphic novels a year, plus mini-series, and one-shots. Milestone did not confirm any titles or release dates.

Milestone Media started in 1993 with co-founders Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle. They were known for creating under-represented characters in the comic book world, and their amazing agreement with DC to publish under their name, but retain full creative control.

Stay tuned for more news pertaining to Milestone and Earth-M.

Source: CBR

SDCC 2015 – ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Origin Trailer Released

Legends of Tomorrow
Image belongs to DC Entertainment and The CW. Via Screen Rant

The CW is upping its DC game with Legends of Tomorrow.

A new trailer for the show was released that catches fans up on the various superhero backstories. With direct parallels between comics and TV, it’s super exciting to see all these icons coming together.

The trailer is set up very much like a comic book, with scenes from both mediums interwoven throughout. The CW is growing their DC Universe more and more these days and LoT seems like it will be an awesome addition.

The trailer also included more information on other superheroes we’ll be seeing this fall that The CW hasn’t shown before.

The show will include Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvil), Firestorm (Victor Garber), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), The Atom (Brandon Routh), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and White Canary (Caity Lotz).

Legends of Tomorrow will air in 2016.