DC Comics are no longer being distributed in British newsagents

Titan Comics are no longer publishing their licensed reprints of DC Comics in the UK meaning there won’t be DC titles in newsagents which means a lot of readers will be disappointed.

Comics in newsagents is important because for many people it’ll be their first encounter with them, and indeed people like Warren Ellis has spoken of stumbling across comics in newsagents when he was young. So that spark led into careers in the industry for a lot of people but for the last 20 years or so DC have royally fucked up ensuring readers get their favourite stories, or even pick up new ones. Licences have been passed around but we shouldn’t have a situation where on the verge of 2019 the license is dangling there waiting for someone else to pick it up.

But as said, it never used to be like that. DC used to have their comics well distributed from the 1950’s when 5/6% of the average titles print run was sent to the UK to be shipped to newsagents. By the 80s and early 90’s large chunks of certain titles print runs (Hellblazer for example)  were escaping cancellation as much of the print run was being sold in the UK, and not just the direct market. You could pick up titles in not just the big chains like W.H Smith’s but your corner shop with your loaf and pint of milk. All of that stopped in the late 90s.

Next time out I’ll be going into this more as I start a series of stories of unsung heroes of British comics.

DC Comics , Suicide, and Misogyny

The latest bit of organised insanity from DC Comics is this competition where drawing a picture of the character Harley Quinn in several situations may get you published. Here’s the description of the last of four panels DC would like people to draw.

Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.

This has caused a wee bit of a kerfuffle as well, it’s such a fucking awful idea. DC have effectively tried to sexualise the actual act of suicide in a way to get what is a bit of cheap publicity which yes, involves people like me pointing out the problem with doing this. It’s a perfect bit of marketing if one has not got ethics or a soul to worry about.

Taken in isolation it doesn’t seem too bad, but when you consider that DC changed the character from this…

To this..

There’s nothing essentially wrong with sexualised superheroes if used in the right context  as I’ve explained before, but this is different. This is cheap and pandering to a certain large part of the customer base who see female characters as gratification only, which in this context is dubious and wrapped round a sexualised image of suicide is morally dubious at best, or pandering to the worst of people.

Coming around the same time as their decision to refuse a lesbian marriage in their Batwoman title, and just before Suicide Prevention Week, you have to think that DC is run by people who have no idea of the world beyond their own cynical worldview. You’d probably be right. These joyless decisions to ensure that DC closes out a larger readership confirms what the likes of Karen Berger have said about the company that it’s given up on dealing with anyone that isn’t in their current core readership, even if that means alienating people and generally making themselves looking like enormous arseholes.

Even the Guinness Book of Records Hates the New Superman Outfit

This weekend at Kendal Calling there was a new world record for people dressed as Superman

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A bit of research shows there’s a lot of competition over this and it is indeed, a big thing in it’s own wee way. There’s one thing though from this link here…..

PLEASE NOTE:  The costume requirements for participating in this event are as follows: 

Any costume must have the blue body suit, the red and yellow “S” shield on the chest, the yellow belt, the red cape, red boots, and the red trunks.  Guinness has given us no indication that other costume variations set forth in the comics, films, or books other than the Classic Superman version or the “Superman Returns” version are considered acceptable, so- to be safe- we are limiting it to these two costume styles only.  The Rubies-brand Classic Superman and Superman Returns costumes are considered acceptable as they are officially licensed. Fan-made costumes are acceptable as long as they meet the criteria listed above.

So there we have it. Even the Guinness Book of Records thinks this is horrible…

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We are however nowhere near this yet…

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Superman Kills!

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That’s a panel from Justice League #22 written by Geoff Johns, the man who seems to be single handedly making DC’s superhero comics grim, dark, depressing things that you wouldn’t wipe your arse on.

Yes, I know that Superman is possessed and it’s not really him, but if there’s an image that defines superhero comics now it’s probably going to be this which is designed to make as many people pissed off as possible and create chatter online for DC’s range of titles.

It’s only designed to to this. That’s it. It’s a fuck you to people who might be more than a bit fed up by this constant  pandering to those who think ‘adult’ is just more and more empty violence or thought Man of Steel was kewl and hey, people are going to die right?

It’s clearly an attempt to reconcile Man of Steel with the comic version of Superman and I’ve made my thoughts clear on that film, but this is yet another example of bad writing from bad writers in order to pander to people with a video game’s sense of morality.

It’s dull, it’s boring and it’s frankly offensive to see DC do this. Will they change anything? No, of course not as it’s a cynical attempt to cash in while removing another little piece of joy from the world as if you make everything dark, grim and depressing then what’s the point? Where’s the optimism? You can’t sustain drama when the tone is that of someone standing over a sink with a razor over their wrists thinking whether or not to slash them open? You can’t make things grimmer and grimmer because you don’t have anything in this world that anyone wants to fight for?

And that’s the problem. Why should we the readers bother anymore?

Mass Murderer of Steel

I made a blog about Superman and the new film, Man of Steel last month which focused on how DC Comics and Warner Bros. had royally shafted Superman’s creators over the years, and how this film was meant mainly to be made to keep the film rights of the Superman character.

Well, I’ve seen the film now so from here on in it’s spoilers so you’ve been warned.

Right, firstly I’ll make it clear that the film is fucking shite just in case anyone might be confused as I go on.This isn’t to say there’s not good things about it; the score is good, some scenes are very well imagined (the Krypton scenes especially are very well imagined) and the last five minutes aren’t bad at all. Everything else is grim, unrelenting shite wrapped in one of the worst scripts you’ll hear being spoken by actors horribly miscast in roles they barely manage to breathe two dimensions into.

So let’s briefly recap Superman’s origins. He’s sent to earth by the brilliant Kryptonian scientist Jor El as his planet is doomed, where he’s found by Jonathan and Martha Kent who bring him up to be a guardian of everything good and to fight for truth and justice when he grows up to be Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, and to be an example for the world. As you can see there’s plenty of religious allegory here as that’s what Siegel and Shuster intended when they created Superman as they drew upon the Jewish myths of their upbringing, and at the time creating a powerful foe against the evils of Nazi Germany, not to mention the daily plight of immigrants to the US who suffered at the hands of slum landlords, corrupt businessmen and gangsters. In fact early Superman stories were full of him taking on these sort of villains as Superman was a moral guardian for the weak and the poor. He made things better for people and that’s been the character’s core for the 75 years he’s been around.

Then we get to Man of Steel which starts with a long sequence on Krypton which shows the planet in a middle of a civil war which means the director can show lots of THINGS EXPLODING, and the brilliant scientist Jor El (played with the range of a Findus Crispy Pancake by Russell Crowe) gets to walk around looking brooding and moody with a big gun. We know Jor El is broody and moody because Crowe frowns a lot and does his important sounding voice from Gladiator while shooting people as brilliant scientists tend to do.

Jor El then faces off against General Zod (played by Michael Shannon who SHOUTS A LOT to show how angry and earnest he is)  before being killed by Zod as he sends his son to Earth after some bollocks about Jor El placing the MacGuffin in the ship taking his son from Krypton. It doesn’t really matter because you don’t really care as there’s no character building as that would get in the way of the SHOUTING and THINGS EXPLODING.

Zod gets his arse kicked, the civil war ends, Jor El sends his son to Earth, Zod and his gang get sent to the Phantom Zone. And this is in around five minutes of screentime topped off by Krypton EXPLODING!

Then we flash forward to an adult Clark Kent being a moody wanderer in a fishing boat trying to rescue people from an oil rig fire in an actually well done scene, but this is the last good scene until the last five minutes. What follows in between these scenes is the sort of stuff you normally see in bad fanfiction or in a lot of superhero comics today as we get lots of brooding shots of Henry Cavill, lots of brooding shots of Shannon’s Zod, lots of brooding shots of Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, and on and on.

While I’m talking about Costner let me talk about his death scene. It’s so badly written and set in a scenario so ridiculous that if you’ve not been taken out of the film by the endlessly pompous tone of the film you will be as Costner dies in a tornado to save a dog because ‘humans aren’t ready for what his son is’.

Like I said, bad fanfiction.

Anyhow, Zod’s soldiers get out the Phantom Zone, find their way to Earth to get the MacGuffin, which results in a huge fight between Superman and the Kryptonians in Smallville which results in THINGS EXPLODING and probably the loss of thousands of lives, but lets skim over that as there was lots of kewl fights and guns and helicopters and soldiers and stuff plus lots of THINGS EXPLODING.

The film muddles along until it gets to the last 40 minutes which is more fight scenes, more THINGS EXPLODING and lots of 911 imagery used in a dubious moral way to drive home the point that this is a Superman for a post-911 world and things are much darker now. This of course ignores the fact the character was created when Jews in Europe were being rounded up and murdered by the Nazis, but today’s audience only seems to care of the here and now not to mention did I say there was THINGS EXPLODING on screen?

Eventually Superman defeats all the Kryptonians by sending them back into the Phantom Zone (I think, by now my brain was like putty) apart from Zod so they can have yet another huge fight scene with no emotional content but it looks kewl and there’s THINGS EXPLODING, and oh, Superman breaks the neck of Zod because that’s dark isn’t it? That’s what the kids want? A Superman who breaks the neck of a bad guy because kids love dark moody characters so let’s have Superman break the neck of Zod because the filmmakers can’t think of anything else. Did I say it was dark as well?

The fight scenes are clearly influenced by what Alan Moore and John Totleben did on Miracleman #15 back in the 80’s, but the difference is that Moore and Totleben detailed the horror of such a fight in graphic and gory detail.

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The human cost is clear, but in Man of Steel, the human cost is at best an afterthought, but most of the time it’s ignored as that gets in the way of people punching each other and THINGS EXPLODING!

It’s a soulless, empty film made by accountants and marketing managers to try to hit the demographic who think ‘adult comics’ means people endlessly hitting each other, scientists carrying guns and maybe the odd THING EXPLODING.

But it’s the uncaring loss of life that shows up exactly how little the people who made this film care about Superman, or even follow the script they’ve filmed. In Costner’s death scene we have it made clear that Superman has to put people first and protect them, and we see that in the oil rig scene but as soon as the director/writer get to the big fight scenes we don’t see that until the moment when Zod’s neck is broken but by this time millions of people are dead or maimed but we’re not shown the human cost at all. It’s war but with no human cost so in that respect it’s very modern but ultimately Man of Steel is just violence for violence’s sake. It’s fanfiction writ large.There’s no joy in it. No fun. Just nihilistic violence and brooding, boring introspection. As said, it’s exactly the sort of thing creating by marketing managers and accountants.

Alan Moore recently outlined more of the history of Superman which detailed how the character was exploited, and Man of Steel is just another notch in the exploitation of the character but done in such a nasty, cynical way that any joy you can take from it is wiped out by another 15 minute fight scene with THINGS EXPLODING everywhere.

Then there’s the figure being sold at San Diego featuring Superman standing on skulls because nothing screams ‘hope’ more than Superman standing on skulls.

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Ultimately though the best review of the film is the fantastic Kyle Baker’s game Mass Murderer of Steel, as it just sums the bloody mess up perfectly. Endless scenes of men hitting each other over and over and over and over in increasingly empty scenes of violence…..

Man of Steel-What You Might Like to Know About Superman

The new Superman film, Man of Steel is out in the UK this week amid a huge amount of publicity and fuss. It looks like it might even be a bit above the usual American summer blockbuster. It might even be a very good film and it’s got good people in front and behind the camera. It is however an an enormous fuck you to the creators of Superman and their family who have been fighting for as long as Superman has existing to get a fair share of the billions upon billions their creation has made for it’s corporate owners for over seven decades.

 

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and first published in 1938. You can see the pair discuss their creation of Superman here. The media are falling over themselves to provide studies of the myth and meaning of Superman over the last 75 years, but few if any will mention how Siegel and Shuster were shafted  over the creative rights of Superman.

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I didn’t know anything of this as a kid reading comics, not until I read in a fanzine about Neal Adams fighting for Siegal and Shuster to get due credit for Superman in the 1970’s and the story of the messy history between DC (and the companies before it became DC Comics) is in this excellent article here. Siegel struggled to make a living in comics for years, and there’s a mention ins Sean Howe’s excellent Marvel Comics: The Untold Story about how Stan Lee felt sorry for Siegel in the 1960’s when he was struggling for work, so gave him whatever job he could at Marvel but because his writing style didn’t fit into the Marvel style of the time this meant menial office jobs. The man who was partly responsible for the boom in superheroes and for creating employment for people at Marvel and DC was reduced to struggling for work and favours from friends like Lee. Siegel even worked for IPC’s line of boy’s adventure comics and created The Spider which appeared in Lion, which was a strip I adored as a kid.

 

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In 1975 DC agreed to pay Siegel and Shuster $20,000 for the rest of their lives. At that point, they’d made billions from Superman, and even then this amount was only agreed after the work of people like Neal Adams. This was not something DC out of the goodness of their heart.

By the time of their deaths the dispute still hadn’t been settled, and carried on to their heirs,  who continued to fight for what was a fair share of their creation as the sons and daughters of shareholders made money from Superman but the family of the men who created him didn’t. However due to US copyright law, the rights would revert to Siegel and Shuster’s families, and that would include the film rights as well. Early last year, DC’s parent company Warner Brothers won, which saw Man of Steel go quickly into production to ensure the film rights stayed with Warner’s .

So when you settle down to watch Man of Steel in your comfy chair in the cinema have a wee thought about the creators and their families and wonder why the media is talking about the heroic myth of Superman, but don’t feel it’s important to mention what happened to Siegel and Shuster? I’d imagine because it probably shows the myth up to be just that, a myth.

Siegel and Shuster deserved better. Their heirs deserve better. It would be nice if one journalist, or one person connected with the film mentioned this rather than repeat the same story which marginalises the creators and their plight into a footnote of a larger story rather than being something that taints the myth.

 

 

 

Hey Kids! COMICS!

ImageThe New York Times has a really quite fascinating article on Karen Berger that’s pretty much essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in comics, and no, not just superheroes but comics as a medium and where the major companies are heading.

There’s a couple of sections which stand out for me. The first is this one:

Ms. Berger said she noted changes in DC’s priorities in recent years. “I’ve found that they’re really more focused on the company-owned characters,” she said. DC and its Disney-owned rival, Marvel, “are superhero companies owned by movie studios.”

This is probably the first time I’ve seen a high level employee (or ex-exmployee) point out what’s been increasingly obvious over the last decade that DC and Marvel have focused on pumping out titles featuring their superheroes at the detriment of anything else. Of course there are people who will point out the odd one or two titles which aren’t just superheroes, but on the whole DC and Marvel publish superhero comics to a decreasing marketplace.

Which brings me to the second part which stands out…

Dan DiDio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, said there was “some truth” to these feelings of a shifting landscape, which he said were industrywide. For comics published by Vertigo and by DC, he said: “There’s not a challenge to be more profitable out of the gate. But there is a challenge to be more accepted out of the gate.”

Mr. DiDio said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.”

“That’s not what we’re in the business for,” he added. “We have to shoot for the stars with whatever we’re doing. Because what we’re trying to do is reach the biggest audience and be as successful as possible.”

Again, this is the first time I think Didio has admitted publically that creativity, innovation and experimentation is a thing of the past, and that ‘servicing a small part of our audience’ really means ‘fuck you’ to a large a loyal audience of readers who would enjoy the experimentation of the Vertigo years. It is however about servicing a not much larger section of the audience with superheroes, or at least, how people think superheroes should be portrayed to a shrinking marketplace.

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So when your audience is teenage boys and middle aged men you end up with Batman fucking Catwoman on panel, or any of the dozens of other examples of DC fuckwittery which means they appeal to a smaller and smaller market. It’s all calculated to sell as many copies to as limited an audience as possible while ensuring they exploit as much intellectual property as possible, and if it’s sexist or moronic then great because a lot of the audience want that.

Never mind there’s a larger group of people who might want to read stories about Catwoman where she’s not just an arse and a pair of tits, or seeing Sue Dibny raped in a story which set the tone for the last decades worth of DC stories.

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There’s no joy in this. There’s just people trying to be ‘mature’ by being as sexist as possible while the buying audience decreases because superheroes aren’t fun and as children’s characters they should be fun. However this is basically DC telling us that it’s over for anything fun or different or experimental.

It’s all grim, misogynist rape and violence for here on in. I’m no prude, but when you make children’s characters deliberately inaccessible to children and most women then you’re really not reaching for the stars and trying to expand your readership because frankly, everyone is too scared to lose their job and take the leap that Berger has.

So I wish Berger well. She’s helped provide me with vast amounts of entertainment over the years, and I apologise for trying to chat her up at a UKCAC in the 90’s. My only excuse was I was exceptionally drunk…