ASK CHRIS #210: THE STRANGE SAGA OF BATGIRL CASSANDRA CAIN
By Chris Sims
Q: Cassandra Cain: WTF happened? — @IamMedellin
A: Here’s the least shocking thing you’re going to read this week: I love Cassandra Cain. That probably goes without saying, given that she’s a relatively obscure member of the Batman family that made her debut when I was a teenager, but really, it goes deeper than that. She came out of the gate with a compelling edge, some phenomenally solid storytelling, and a hook for drama that put her in contrast to the rest of Gotham’s assorted heroes and hangers-on, while still feeling like a natural compliment to the other characters. And then, less than a decade later, she’d gone from being a new character with an incredible amount of potential to an also-ran who only really shows up to fill space in crossovers — something that almost never happens to characters in the Batman family, especially when they’ve got 70+ solo issues under their utility belts.
So what happened? Man, I can’t even tell you, I just read the darn things. But folks, it got really weird there at the end.
WHY SO SERIOUS: WARNER BROS. REPORTEDLY ORDERS ‘NO JOKES’ IN NEW DC COMICS MOVIES
Comics fans have become well acquainted with the notion that sometimes, creative people learn the wrong things from successes. It’s why certain comics have been dominated for going on 30 years by a “dark” and “mature” sensibility that often comes off as grim, self-serious and overcooked.
Well, get ready for that way of thinking to make its way to movie theaters very soon. According to a report at Hitfix, Warner Bros. has a strict rule for its upcoming DC Comics movies: “No jokes.”
What’s particularly surprising is that the rule — which itself is kind of a joke, when you think about it — is that it stems from a failure more than it does a success, at least, according to Hitfix writer Drew McWeeny’s thinking.
BATGIRL TAKES THE A.L.S. ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE (WITH A VERY SPECIAL GUEST)
By Chris Sims
Since you are reading this on the Internet, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’re already familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge, wherein folks are being nominated by friends, fans and colleagues to dump buckets of freezing cold water on their heads on camera to raise awareness of (and money to combat) ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord — or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, as it is popularly known. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen plenty of famous folks taking the challenge, but now, it has busted right through the Fourth Wal, and all the way to Gotham City’s Burnside neighborhood.
This particular challenge was issued by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, the creative team for the revamp of Batgirl, and the challengee is Barbara Gordon herself, who seems set on finding out just how helpful that new jacket is going to be in fighting off the cold.
Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr begin their run in October. Information on ALS and how to donate can be found at ALSA.org.
SEE IT – TO BELIEVE IT: JACK KIRBY’S WILDEST DC COMICS COVERS IN HONOR OF THE KING’S 97TH BIRTHDAY
Jack Kirby is arguably the single most influential figure in the history of American comics. He produced countless stories in a career that spanned seven decades, inventing and re-inventing genres and styles every step of the way. He inspired generations of artists and writers; created and co-created thousands of characters; defined the visual vocabulary of superheroes; and believed in the potential of comics to be both entertainment and art, long before most people imagined these stories would be remembered past the four weeks that they sat on newsstands.
This Thursday would have been Kirby’s 97th birthday. We’ve assembled some pieces to celebrating the life and work of the man American comics also knows as “the King.” This one focuses on Kirby’s strength as a cover illustrator.
Jack Kirby’s comics work is justly renowned, but one of the less-recognized aspects of his genius was his skill at crafting covers – even half-hidden on a supermarket spinner rack, or surrounded by other colorful titles on a vast magazine stand, his books could reach across the room to grab your attention. Once he left Marvel for DC in the early ’70s, Kirby took his designing skill with him. And even though DC tended to be less receptive to his input than Marvel had been (often bringing in other artists to rework his covers, or even replacing them entirely), when he was left to his own devices, Kirby produced a number of incredibly striking images for DC that eclipse even his Marvel highs, full of colorful and confounding characters.
GOTHAM ACADEMY: BECKY CLOONAN’S SUPER COOL HERO PORTRAITS, CHARACTER BREAKDOWNS AND GUERRILLA MARKETING
By Chris Sims
I don’t think it’s possible for the staff of ComicsAlliance to get more excited for Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl‘s Gotham Academy than we already are, but if there’s one thing that could do it, it’s seeing the characters for the new book in a set of brand-new portraits drawn by Cloonan. This week, that’s exactly what we’ve got, so prepare yourself, because they are fantastic.
In a set of three images, Cloonan has introduced us to the principal characters, Olive Silverlock, Maps Mizoguchi and Kyle Mizoguchi. Check them out along with what the creators of the book had to say in our interview from San Diego Comic-Con. Plus, what we think about how DC is marketing — or not marketing, in a way — this new book.
Brenden Fletcher: Olive Silverlock, our main character.
Becky Cloonan: It’s her second year at Gotham.
BF: Her first year was fairly sunny, fairly bright. She doesn’t come from a really wealthy background so getting to go to this prep school is a wonderful experience for her, was a wonderful experience for her. Her grades are fantastic, loves books, was in the school play, dating the tennis star and then something happened in the summer that changed her world. It’s impacted her relationship with the tennis star in a negative way. It’s impacted the way she feels about the school and it may have had some disastrous change on her life. That’s one of the main arcs of where it’s going. What happened to Olive? What is that going to mean for her future and the future of all the students at Gotham Academy?
LOIS LANE WILL STAR IN A NEW YOUNG ADULT NOVEL BY GWENDA BOND
Lois Lane hasn’t been able to rate an ongoing series in DC Comics’ The New 52, but the character is taking on a starring role in a different medium: young adult novels.
Next January, publisher Switch Press will release Lois Lane: Fallout, which will feature a young Lois starting her life in Metropolis after her military family moves there. Gwenda Bond, the author of the upcoming Girl on a Wire and The Woken Gods, and clearly a huge Lois Lane fan, has confirmed that she’s writing the novel.
PALMIOTTI & GRAY CONCLUDE 100+ ISSUES OF JONAH HEX IN ‘ALL STAR WESTERN’ #34 WITH DARWYN COOKE
By Chris Sims
When the New 52 launched back in 2011, one of the interesting things about the lineup of titles was the presence of a lot of books that attempted to break out of the standard superhero genre, at least a little. There were horror, fantasy and war comics, but the most creatively and commercially successful by far was DC Comics’ All Star Western, featuring Jonah Hex. Now, however, All Star Western is coming to an end after three years with a story where Jonah Hex is faced with what may be his toughest foe yet: Jonah Hex.
This issue marks a pretty notable conclusion for a few reasons, most notably being that, if you count the Jonah Hex series that launched back in 2006 before rebooting as All Star Western, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are two of DC’s longest tenured creators, having written over a hundred issues about Jonah Hex, the disfigured old west era bounty hunter originally created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga in the early 1970s.
The second is that the issue marks the auspicious return of award-winning artist Darwyn Cooke to the character for his final adventure.
EXTREMELY RARE COPY OF ‘ACTION COMICS’ #1 AUCTIONS FOR $3.2 MILLION
An eBay auction for a so-called “pristine” copy of 1938′s Action Comics #1 — the issue in which Superman made his very first appearance — ended Sunday afternoon, and the winning bidder snagged the issue for a cool $3.2 million. That’s the most anyone has ever paid for a comic book, by a pretty wide margin. The previous record was $2.16 million, for a different copy of Action #1. Back in the day, creators Jerry Siegel andJoe Shuster were paid $130 the entire character.
The issue that garnered the $2 million bid (which was previously owned by actor Nicolas Cage) was rated 9.0 by the Certified Guaranty Company, but has pages that have yellowed just a bit. The one that drew the $3.2 million Sunday has white pages and is also rated 9.0.
GIRL FIGHT: THE MARVEL/DC RIVALRY FINALLY EXTENDS TO WINNING THE FEMALE AUDIENCE
Marvel launches the eighth of its nine solo titles with a female lead in November with Spider-Woman #1, and the book sadly already has a cloud over it. A variant cover by master erotic artist Milo Manara stirred enough controversy last week to garner mainstream attention. The cover featured Spider-Woman with her apple-shaped butt raised high in decidedly unheroic manner. It was exactly what one would expect from Manara, who’s created a number of superheroine illustrations for Marvel, but the image suggested a particularly overt tone of sexual objectification that could alienate the sort of readers who attended the Women In Marvel panel at San Diego where the series was announced.
As far as I can recall, Marvel has more female solo titles now than ever before, with a ninth title, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, launching in December. On paper, that suggests a laudable effort to reach out to superhero comics’ growing and under-served audience of female readers. Yet the Manara incident serves to remind us that books about women can very easily be targeted to a male audience.
There’s currently an unspoken contest between Marvel and DC to see who can produce more comics aimed at a female audience. It’s possible the contest only exists in my head, as I’ve been keeping a tally of solo titles with female leads for the past several months — but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that editors at the two publishers have also been keeping track.