Monday, January 31, 2011

Bullet Review: Zatanna #9

When the Zatanna comic was first solicited, I thought for sure it would be on my buy list. It sure had the talent to grab me.

The writer was Paul Dini, whose work I have always loved. His stuff on the animated Batman series and his work with Alex Ross (especially Superman:Peace on Earth) was great. And the artist was Stephane Roux. I really loved Roux' cover work on Birds of Prey.

With that confluence of talent, I was ready to embrace the title. I bought the first two issues and I while I thought they were fine, they didn't grab me. While Zatanna has the potential to be a very interesting character (I thought the Morrison/Sook Seven Soldiers:Zatanna mini-series was fantastic), she isn't someone that I necessarily would seek out. So despite the creative team, it was going to take something fantastic to grab me.

Unfortunately, the first two issues just didn't grab me enough. I hadn't purchased it since.

Still ... it seemed in some ways wrong that I wasn't collecting it. I wondered if I might be missing something because the talent was there. I debated picking it up again.

Then I heard Jamal Igle was going to take over the book soon and I figured that was enough to put the book back on the pull list. Zatanna #9 came out last week ... a sort of nexus of creators that I love. The cover is by Stephane Roux. I don't know about the top hat symbol or the 'missing shins' (Are her legs bent at the knee behind her? Or simply not included?) but overall it is a nice piece. Dini writes the main story with Cliff Chiang doing the art. (Why is Cliff Chiang not on a monthly title??) And Adam Beechen and Jamal Igle do the back up story.

Since it was Igle's art that spurred me to buy this issue, I'll bullet review that story.

It is a cute story about a young Zatanna, a junior sorceress dealing with getting braces.

The braces have just been put on so Zatanna isn't quite used to them. As a result, she can't speak coherently and is spewing drool when she does talk. It's hard to speak backwards magic when your mouth is betraying you.

While relaxing at the mall after her dentist appointment, Zatanna tries to foil a robbery.

I had to post some of my favorite panels of this story, just a reminder of what I'll be missing over on Supergirl.

I love this first panel as Zatanna enjoys her milkshake. You just get the sense that she is loving that drink, almost hugging it to her, smiling.

And a pretty amusing spit-take.

As I said, she can't speak clearly and is flinging drool all over like a rabid dog.

Igle does a good job of showing a variety of feelings on those people who Zatanna has drenched.

I also love this trip back in time to the 80s. The 'Blossom' hat, the Frankie Goes to Hollywood t-shirt. I know all I need to know about when this story is happening.

When Zatanna can't stop the thief physically, she figures out a way to use her magic, an old school 'speak-and-spell' like toy.

But the thing that works her is the devilish look on Zatanna when she knows she is about to win. As usual, Igle really is able to convey so much information with his character's facial expressions.

With the toy she is able to use her magic, creating a cage out of her braces. It is so ludicrous, it works. This is supposed to be a light-hearted tale.

It also gives a look into the mindset of the young hero. Basically powerless, she still tried to save people.

Sort of a silly story. Enjoyable and light ... like lemon meringue. And I read it to the supergirls at home and they loved it. Still, why not just say 'hteet nethgiarts'?

I will add that the main story by Dini/Chiang is very good with Zatanna dealing with a living ventriloquist's dummy, someone cursed to that existence by Zatara.

So I guess Zatanna is back on the buy list. Anyone been reading this title all along? Is it worth grabbing the issues I am missing?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Kotobukiya Supergirl Statue

A new Kotobukiya Supergirl statue was recently solicited, part of the company's Bishoujo Collection.

I have to say that from afar, this looked like a pretty nice piece. Initially, I actually thought that it might end up being part of my collection.

Certainly, Supergirl expression is very nice, the costume is on the money. She has a great anime-style face. The hair and cape have a nice dynamic feel to them.

And it includes Streaky. That's a nice version of the super-cat.

But it still crosses the line of 'too much' as many Kotobukiya statues do. It's just too much ... if you know what I mean.

I mean this view from behind, the fan service up-skirt shot, exemplifies everything that I don't like about the Kotobukiya series. I don't think I would want this as part of my Supergirl collection. And it's sad. Because it is close to being a great piece, close to being something I wouldn't be embarrassed to have on the shelf.

But not close enough. It isn't for me.

It is scheduled for a June 2011 release.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Action Comics #897

Action Comics #897 came out this week, sporting a rather maniacal looking Lex on the cover. That means we are 8 books in with 3 books left of this Luthor-centric arc by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods. Will this story be able to be wrapped up in that short period of time, even if Action Comics #900 is double-sized? Unlike how I felt with World of New Krypton, I think the answer is yes. Paul Cornell is moving things along here, revealing more and more clues about what is behind the scenes.

As for me, I love mysteries like this in comics. Who is behind the presence of these globes? Who is pulling Luthor's strings? Are we really reading a long arc where Luthor basically isn't in total control of his faculties? And with all my issues of not having decent Superman stories right now, how wild is it that I am liking this sans Superman story??

In particular, this issue really crackles. Unlike interactions with Grodd and Deathstroke, there is something special about Luthor interacting with the Joker. They really represent the opposite ends of the spectrum ... order and chaos, fascism and anarchy. Much like their arch-nemeses, I don't think these guys would be easy pals. Cornell captures that as we see each character reveal what they think of the universe, what they want in the world.

And Pete Woods is doing such tremendous work here. I think it is his best stuff to date.

Last issue we learned Loisbot working for someone else. My guess, giving the origin of her technology, is that she is a servant of Brainiac. But now that we know she might be leading Lex down someone else's desired path, it makes me question everything she has done so far. Now that we know that, Cornell doesn't necessarily need to be coy.

It turns out that Spalding has discovered that the articles which Lex downloaded in the 'isopod' way back in Action Comics #890, the articles which spurred him to start this black energy quest, may have been planted. All that information may have been the bait to get Lex to go out and harvest this energy for someone else.

And Lois seems all to eager to quash that reveal. She doesn't want Lex to question what he is doing ... why he is doing it. She wants him to continue down this path. I have said it before, I have come to like the LoisBot. She is funny and has the best wardrobe. I hope she isn't simply the pawn of a Brainiac.

The latest globe has manifested in Arkham Asylum with the Joker. This no longer seems like arbitrary concentrations of energy. These have been placed.

Somehow Lex has arranged a meeting of the minds. Surprisingly, the Joker seems to be ready and waiting, having set up two jelly jars on the table.

As they start their discussion, Joker plays a sweet and subtle joke on Lex. Joker says he just wants to kill Batman, that that will save the world. Of course, that mirrors Lex's feelings about Superman. It takes Lex a second to realize he is being teased.

Luthor's reaction is definitely not your typical Lex. He throttles the Joker, Loisbot backing him up with her weaponry. After being hit, he tells Lex through grit teeth that he boiled a baby and made the father drink the soup. Creepy. Cornell really does a great job writing the Joker, moving back and forth between intense anger and lunacy.

 Finally he makes Lex pick a jelly jar so he can reveal what is contained. The jar Lex picks has a My Little Pony in it, described by the Joker as a magical singing pony, echoing something Lex told Death in their conversation a few issues back. How could the Joker know that?

I love ... and I mean LOVE ... that the Joker calls it a camp version of Blade Runner. I love Blade Runner. A reference to the famous unicorn scene! Just perfect.

 Under the opposite jar is the black energy globe, this one remarkably smaller than the prior ones.

The Joker reveals that he has some control over the globe, able to touch it and shrink it. That is something Lex has not done. We have seen what happens to people in the vicinity of these globes. They go mad, lashing out violently. How interesting that the Joker can interact with it so intimately.

 The Joker does not want Lex to analyze the globe and transmute it to white energy.

In a rare moment where you can look deeper into his psyche, the Joker says that what he really wants is for there to be order in the universe, so that what people do matters in some way. I wasn't sure if we were going to see him fall over laughing in the next panel, a sign that the Joker was just shining us on again. But Cornell plays it straight. This is the Joker. It is him almost praying that he is wrong about things; it is him pleading that he hopes the antithesis of what he believes is the underlying power in the universe. In some ways it reminded me that in Blackest Night Luthor admitted he wanted to be Superman.

I also like the cross-hatching behind the Joker. At first it seems chaotic, overlying scratch marks. But then it also seems orderly, straight lines crisscrossing. And then it seems like both, an ordered pattern laid on top of itself so many times that it becomes chaotic. It has the feeling of a fractal. I thought it worked well with this panel, the duality of Joker's speech.

Giving us some more exposition, the Joker says that the globe simply appeared to him one day, probably because he is such an archetypal personality. The globe was attracted to him.  And because it sought him out, he is immune to its influences.

Looking back, are the other villains we have seen archetypes like the Joker? Certainly Grodd and Vandal Savage are big personalities. Is that some sort of hint?

Moreover, the globe is a portal of some sort. With the globe, the Joker can hear all conversations. That's how he knew about the Lex and Death dialogue. Again, Cornell has a nice grasp of the Joker. When discussing Death, he says she is a tease because she 'ignores all the gifts' he sends, all the people he has killed. Fantastic!

But the Joker knows that the whispers are a minor attribute of the globe. The Joker knows there is a power behind the globes.

LoisBot again tries to deflect any new information from Lex. Lex doesn't know that someone or something is manipulating him, doing these things to him. And Lois doesn't want him to know. She says that the Joker is trying to confuse Lex with his rantings.

I keep waiting for Luthor to finally sort of snap out of it. The way he is acting, the things he is doing is so out of character sometimes. I keep waiting for a panel where he says 'what am I doing' even if it is only for a moment.

 The Joker agrees to give Lex the globe if he increases it in size first. At its normal size and power, the Joker can use it to leave Arkham.

Spalding feeds the globe power and it grows to fill the room. The Joker tries to slip out but whatever he saw in that globe was too horrifying, the future too terrible, to want to be out there. A vision that is scary enough to spook the Joker? I don't know if I want to see it. And neither does he.

The Joker begs Spalding to analyze the globe, stopping what he saw, and change it to white energy.

Shaking Lex, Joker implores him not to force a cataclysmic joke on the universe. Whatever future he saw, Lex is at the center of it.

The last time I heard of some plot being called a big joke was the Commedian referencing Ozymandias' plans to lay waste to New York City.

What could the Joker have seen?

Who is behind all this?

Lex leaves, the white globe now under his control.

When Spalding says he is going to have to reveal those planted articles to Luthor, LoisBot shoves him into the energy globe, killing him. Almost immediately afterward, she seems to show remorse. I am telling you now ... LoisBot has become a bit human. She loves Lex. I guarantee you that at some point she is going to go against her programming, disobey whoever her 'master' is, and save Lex.

Amazingly, the Joker takes credit for killing Spalding, leaving Lois appearing pure as the driven snow.

The issue ends with Larfleeze in Las Vegas demanding to see Lex.

So we continue to learn more about this cosmic chessboard where Lex is simply a game piece. I still think that Brainiac is on one side of the board, the LoisBot his tool. But who is Mister Mind working for. I still think it's Darkseid. I don't think Sivana or Mxyzptlk fit the bill anymore.

But the high point of this issue was Lex and the Joker playing off each other. Cornell definitely has a feel for both characters. In particular, his Joker was spot on, scary, loony, and sad.

Pete Woods continues to shine in this book. His Joker is frightening and goofy. And he has the right body type. I hate the emaciated look for the Joker.

Can you imagine a Brainiac, Darkseid, Luthor, and Superman throwdown in Action Comics #900? I think I am aiming too high.

Overall grade: B+

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interview With Sterling Gates And Jamal Igle, Part Two

Part two of my interview with Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle.

Anj: I will be honest, I miss Alura. She was such a powerful, polarizing, and in many ways sympathetic character. I vacillated between hating her and feeling for her. Was she a tough character to write?

And her death scene is so different from Zor-El’s, so quick and nearly silent. It’s just as powerful but in a different way. How did that scene evolve?

Sterling Gates: Of all of the characters in New Krypton, I found Alura the easiest to write. She was a woman wrapped in a shroud of grief, always trying to do what was best for her people. She would always be hard on Kara, be a very tough mother, but then she would fiercely defend Kara if anyone said anything bad about her daughter. I loved that. I loved writing that. She had her ways, and they were ways that Supergirl didn’t always understand.

One of the things I wanted to do in Supergirl is present a multitude of different female characters. Kara, Alura, Cat, Lois, Lana, Ma Kent, Lucy Lane, they’re all fascinating characters to me in their own rights, and I wanted to be sure I wrote them to the best of my abilities. Also, there are very few male characters in our run, and that was completely intentional. I wanted to show readers what I believe: women in the DCU are just as compelling as the men. If I were writing a different book, like Superman or whatever, I would’ve used a different tactic and writing style, and focused on different things. I just wanted to make sure all of the women in the Super-Universe were well represented in the book called Supergirl. It was important to me.

Alura’s quick death came out of necessity more than anything else. I’ve said this before, but I could’ve spent an entire issue dealing with Alura’s death. I wanted to. I wanted an entire issue of Supergirl to be Alura’s life flashing before her eyes -- kind of like what we did in Supergirl #47 -- as she tried to stop Reactron from exploding.

Alas, we didn’t have the space or the time, so her death had to be as quick and meaningful as we could make it. Jamal drew the hell out of it, I thought.

Anj: It's crazy to me that the Alura death scene, which worked so well for me because it was so brief, came about almost by accident. Serendipity at its best!

SG: What’s that saying about adversity inspiring creativity? Those pages were truly co-written by James and I, by the way. He would write the top panel with Superman fighting Zod, Ursa, and Non, and I’d write the bottom four panels with Supergirl and Reactron and Alura. We worked very, very closely together across the entire War of the Superman, to the point where I have trouble remembering who wrote what in the end.

Anj: One of my favorite characters you added to the book was Superwoman. Her being Lucy Lane has major implications in both Supergirl and Superman’s books. How was it decided to make Lucy Superwoman? Did you worry about any fan backlash?

SG: New Krypton was meant to be a very personal conflict for all members of the Superman Family, and Geoff and James had already discussed Lucy being Superwoman by the time I started writing Supergirl. I loved the idea and ran with it. I didn’t worry about fan backlash, I worried about telling a big story that hung together and worked with Lucy as a character.

Anj: Another great character from the run was Bizarro Supergirl. Was it as much fun to write and draw her as it seemed it was?

SG: I love Bizarrogirl. She is a BLAST to write, and she has such a wonderfully creepy look to her, even when she’s doing something completely ludicrous. Jamal really made her look damn cool, as did Bernard Chang. Oh, and Amy Reeder! Amy made her terrifying. I liked Amy’s Bizarrogirl covers so much, I bought the original art for the Supergirl #56 cover from Amy so I could hang it in my office.

Jamal Igle: Oh God, I had so much fun with her. It was hard trying to make her scary because she ends up being such a looney tunes character during the story. I had a great time with all of the Bizarro’s actually, I snuck Sterling into one panel, but the big secret is that one of the Bizarro’s is based on Geoff Johns as well.

SG: Yeah, he’s the one in the “Detroit” hat, and me am the bald one!

Anj: I really loved the whole Bizarrogirl arc as it was such a great way to explore what Supergirl was dealing with after the tragedy of War of the Supermen. How important was it for you to have Kara deal with those emotions and issues? And how great was it to use Bizarro Girl as foil/echo/sounding board for Supergirl? I loved their interplay.

SG: Well, coming out of the War, I felt that we really needed to focus on what that event meant to Supergirl and what happened to her next. For all intents and purposes, she failed in her mission to be a hero. What did that mean? How do you overcome a failure of that magnitude, and what does that kind of thing do to a person, especially when they lose a parent in the process? So for me, that entire Bizarrogirl arc was about examining failure and post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s why she has the nightmares, that’s why she quit being Supergirl and went off on her own for six weeks. That’s why she quit. It was Bizarrogirl’s entrance, Superman’s absence from Metropolis, and big sister Lana’s “come to Jesus” speech that pushed her back into the game. And once she was there, she realized that she needed to get back into doing what she does: saving lives.

I just didn’t want to have Kara shuffle all those emotions to one side and ignore them. That kind of thing can really destroy a real person, and I wanted her to work through those emotions as best they can. It made her more real for me. Now, you can debate how successful we were with it, but I think at the end of the day, the Bizarrogirl story is one of my favorite things I’ve written. Plus, it had Dr. Light acting as a huge orange orbital laser! So cool!

Then it was important to me to give her a very light, fun story, which is why we went from the melancholy Bizarrogirl arc to the annual with the Legion. I was ready to see Supergirl smile again, and putting her in with the Legion felt like the right time and place for her to go next.

Anj: And now the run has ended with Supergirl and Cat Grant coming to some accord and Kara happy with herself for the first time in a while. How far has she come since Supergirl #34, your first issue? Do you feel like you achieved what you wanted to with the character?

SG: I think so, yes.

That was what that last scene in Supergirl #59 was about. Kara steps back on Christmas Day to recognize she has family around her, that she’s not always going to make the right decisions, and that that is part of what makes her human. Kara now has a human identity that she can use to relax or study the people she’s living amongst, and she’s finally shown the person who took her to task the most (i.e. Cat) that she really can do worthwhile things. I think that’s an important message for teenagers -- no, scratch that. It’s an important message for everyone. If someone comes down on us, we shouldn’t just take it. We should do our best to prove them wrong. We should try to show them that we’re better than they assume we can be. No one else is going to change minds about you but you.

And that’s what Kara learned while we were working on the book, and hopefully that’s something she’ll take with her going into the future. I’m incredibly excited to see what happens to her next.

JI: I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that we brought Kara into a new place in the world.

Anj: What do you think of the Supergirl fanbase? Some of the things you brought to the table (Linda Lang, bike shorts) weren’t exactly uniformly loved. Did you know there was such a passionate group when you signed on?

SG: Sure. All characters have bigger and more passionate fanbases than we expect them to, but you can’t please every fan. The only people we can please are ourselves. If you’re a writer and you listen to people on the Internet and use their opinions or reviews to write your next book, you’re not writing that book to the best of your abilities. We set out to tell the Supergirl stories we wanted to tell in the way we wanted to tell them.

I will be eternally grateful for everyone’s support, and I hope we put out books that people enjoyed.

JI: Not initially but I certainly found out pretty quickly. The majority of the Supergirl fans have been awesome and supportive. The dissenters were rare and unfortunately seemed to be focused on the fact that we decided to give her a pair of shorts, (which actually weren’t supposed to be separate shorts but a skort ) and seemed to use that as they’re battering ram. I hold no ill will towards them, they’re entitled to their opinions, even if I don’t agree with them.

Anj: Lastly, I am sad to see you guys moving on. You treated Supergirl with respect and made it okay to be a Kara fan again, taking her on the hero’s journey. So can you announce what projects are coming up for you both?

SG: Soon!

JI: I’ll be taking over the penciling duties of Zatanna with issue #11 however I also drew a back up story in Zatanna # 9.

Anj: Well I can't thank you guys enough for doing this interview and for your run on Supergirl. I believe it is going to stand the test of time and become a sort of benchmark for the character. I know that you have made a lot of fans here who are going to follow you to your next projects. I hope that at some point we get to see you guys on a Supergirl story again.

I guess I'll be reading Zatanna from now on! And I'll be waiting to hear what you have coming up next Sterling! Thanks!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview With Sterling Gates And Jamal Igle, Part One

I think anyone who has visited this site knows how much I loved and appreciated the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run on Supergirl. They really treated Kara with the respect she deserves, rehabilitating her and making her an important character in the DCU.

With Gates and Igle both off the title, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview them, asking them about their 2+ years on the title and their take on Supergirl. The interview will run over today and tomorrow.

I can't thank them enough for letting me talk to them about their run on Supergirl one last time.

Anj: Were either of you Supergirl fans prior to being named as creators on the book?

Sterling, I have read about how much you were a fan of the Helen Slater movie. What about her earlier comic adventures?

And how about you Jamal? I know you did an issue on Peter David’s run and an issue of Teen Titans she was in. Did you like her as a character?

Sterling Gates: I always really liked the “Daring New Adventures” Carmine Infantino/Paul Kupperberg stuff from the early 1980’s, and I loved the Supergirl movie adaptation DC put out in 1984. I loved Kara in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Supergirl’s scene with Batgirl and Kara’s death are two of the most memorable -- and in my opinion, best -- Supergirl scenes in comics history. When I got really into comics in the early 90’s, the “Death of Superman” story was going strong, and the Matrix-era Supergirl was all over the books. I liked her, but not as much as I liked Kara Zor-El.

When Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner reintroduced her in Superman/Batman, though, that’s when I really glommed on to the character and became a big fan.

Jamal Igle: I sort of went back and forth with Supergirl. Being a long time Superman fan, I was also reading Legion of Superheroes and knew about her from those appearances. I was a fan of Peter David’s series; read it religiously almost the entire run. So when they introduced Kara again in Superman/Batman, I was curious but I ultimately ended up not liking the series very much. I didn’t like how she was portrayed and it turned me off a bit.

Anj: You both have most of the recent Supergirl history covered. The Kupperberg stuff really was the light at the end of the tunnel, after Supergirl lived through some rough stories in Superman Family. I am thrilled you loved PAD's run Jamal. It's definitely a different sort of Supergirl, but just great storytelling.

Anj: When you both signed on, were you expecting to have as long a run as you did? Did you have any long term ideas for the character in mind?

JI: Not initially, but you never go into any series thinking that “Well I’m going to be on this for x amount of issues”. Every job is different and there are always different factors involved. So I honestly wasn’t thinking past the initial “Who is Superwoman?” arc. I didn’t imagine I would be still working on it a year later, let alone two.

SG: I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, honestly. I had some big storylines in mind going in, but I had no idea we would be on the book for as long as we were.

My initial pitch document was fairly detailed, focusing on three long-term goals: giving her a secret identity, something that would help her empathize with humans and see things from their level; giving her a supportive cast, which is how Lana Lang got involved; and giving her a Rogue’s Gallery, because Supergirl’s villains list felt underdeveloped at that point.

Part of the inspiration for trying to add more rogues to Supergirl came from a double page spread Geoff did in Action Comics Annual #10, “Superman’s Top 10 Greatest Villains.” Brainiac, Luthor, Metallo, Mxy, Superman has a TON of big villains we can all readily name off of the top of our heads.

Supergirl, I felt, had none.

A handful of people out there remember Nasty Luthor or the Gang or Lord Xenon from Peter David’s run, maybe, but she didn’t have big villains. I wanted to pick five villains and really focus in on them and their relationship to Supergirl or her supporting cast. Reactron, Silver Banshee, Superwoman, Insect Queen, Dollmaker, all five of them were in that initial pitch document. Though, Dollmaker might’ve been called Doll Queen at that point. I don’t recall.

Also, I felt that outside of her hanging out with Captain Boomerang, Jr. -- a relationship I never really understood, to be frank -- she didn’t have enough friends to play off of, and I thought tying her back into the Superman Universe would help to remedy that.

I think we accomplished all that in our twenty-eight issues. I’m happy where we ended up.

Anj: Wow, Dollmaker was in the original pitch but wasn't seen for 27 issues. It must be gratifying to look back at that original pitch and realize you got to do so much of what you set out to do.

SG: Yeah, Dollmaker was always part of the plan. I knew Cat’s story from the beginning, and I knew the role Supergirl was going to have to play in Cat’s personal growth.

Anj: Was there a moment where either of you sort of stood back and felt that it all was just coming together, that you were doing something special with the character and the book? Anything you wish you had done differently on the book, something that didn’t play out as well as you expected?

SG: I was happy with the work we were doing from the get-go. Jamal is a great artist to work with, and he would always take what I’d written and crank it up a notch. Every time Jamal’s pages would come in, I would print one out and hang it over my desk. Any time I’d get stuck on something, or would be unsure where to take the next issue, I’d look up at Jamal’s superb work and get jazzed up again!

As for what I would have done differently, I look back now and see that I should’ve had an on-panel adventure with Superwoman before ramping that mystery up in “Who is Superwoman?” A one-issue team-up story in Supergirl #37 would’ve been nice, to really let the mystery start nagging at Kara. I feel like that was a mistake on my part.

JI: I think with issue #36 I knew we were clicking as a team. I think when you have two people who can pull together an emotional story and have a visceral reaction happen, it’s the sign of great creative synergy. I sat down and read that script and was so moved by what Sterling wrote. I said before that it was one of the most difficult issues I’d ever drawn, I really was on the verge of tears during Zor- El’s final scene in the book.

As far as things I would have done differently? I personally wish that I had been able to find a voice for my Kara a little earlier than I did. She really didn’t come together for me until about issue # 38. I fumbled around a bit with the first four issues trying to find the balance that I wanted for her. I wanted her to be cute and flirtatious, but not over the top visually in terms of her sexuality. The thing that worked for me I think was I didn’t think of her as a woman first. I thought of her as a Superhero who happened to be a woman. So that when she would stand, it was less about being sexy and more about being heroic, that any sexuality was subtle, and coyish.

Anj: Since you both took over, it feels like Supergirl has really grown in prominence and is relevant again in the DCU. You have the main book’s success, her role in New Krypton and War of the Supermen, and even her presence elsewhere (Cry For Justice, JLA, Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, and Tiny Titans). What do you think is the draw to her as a character now after languishing for a bit?

SG: I think people respond well to all the different facets of the character: they like that she can be innocent, they like when she kicks ass. For me, it was important to portray an exciting teenage superhero that was trying to live up to the greatest symbol in the DCU, a symbol she wears on her chest every day.

I’ve said this before. I feel Supergirl is physically invincible but very vulnerable emotionally. When we’re teenagers, we think nothing can hurt us until someone comes along and crushes our feelings. Supergirl lives that everyday, but in a much more literal way. I think that’s a really basic and interesting premise, and I think people respond well to it.

JI: I think it goes back to what I was just saying, is that for me, she’s a superhero again, she carries herself more heroically than she had when she was reintroduced. She’s gone from getting into fights with Powergirl, the Teen Titans, The Outsiders and the JLA to being embraced by them. I know the idea was to have her be edgier than she was in the 90’s but seriously, who wants to read a book about a petulant teenage girl getting into fights with other heroes? I know I wasn’t interested in it at the time and I wanted to like it. People want their heroes to be heroic. Maybe that makes me old fashioned, I’ve been accused of that before. She’s still feisty and independent. She’s still tough, intelligent, and resourceful. However, now it’s tempered with a sense of responsibility she didn’t have before.

Anj: I’d like to talk about some of the bigger scenes and characters during your run. I guess the first huge one was the death of Zor-El, such a powerful scene and really a launching point for the whole War of the Supermen. Was it known right off that Zor-El was going to die? How did that scene come together?

SG: Well, a lot of the first New Krypton crossover had been loosely plotted by Geoff Johns and James Robinson by the time I came on board the book. They knew Zor was going to be mortally wounded in Geoff’s Action issue, but would die in Supergirl #36. I came in and said that I wanted to use Supergirl #35 to clean up Supergirl’s origin and presented my idea for it, bits and pieces of which got folded into Geoff’s “Brainiac” arc. We were all working together as a unit from the very beginning, but once “Who is Superwoman” got up and running and Geoff left Action, I was free to do as I please.

As for the scene itself, I drew inspiration from my own life. My father passed away when I was 17, and Supergirl’s run through that battlefield reflected my own run down the hallway to try and reach him in time to do anything to help. Unfortunately, my dad was gone by the time I got to his side. There’s an old quote that says “writers write what they always wished to happen to deal with what didn’t,” and I think that’s absolutely true.

Kara got to have the final words with her father that many of us will never have.

JI: For my part, I had to dig deep and remember what it was like for me to lose a very dear friend of mine, Glester Jameswhite. I don’t tell this story too often, but a person we both grew up with shot him in broad daylight. As soon as I found out where his body was lying, I went there. The police had already roped off the area, but I waited with his body for six hours until the coroner’s office picked him up.
I wanted to cry then but I couldn’t. I was numb for almost a week and finally broke down at his funeral. I remembered the fury, the sadness, the sense of loss and put all into that scene.

Anj: You can really feel the emotion of that scene just leap from the page. That whole scene, from the dialogue between father and daughter to this silent scream pieta splash page, really was moving.

Part two of the interview tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

April 2011 Solicits

The April solicits for DC comics were put out last week and include some interesting items. Here is a link for them as they were presented over on Newsarama:

As always, it is worth taking a look at all the books that are coming out that month. It sounds like the Green Lantern books will be worth reading. But here are the usual suspects.

Written by JAMES PEATY

Things are looking grim for Supergirl and friends as a treacherous new foe proves to be more powerful than they could have imagined! And if they’re going to win, Kara will have to come to terms with what it truly means to wear the “S” shield.

Nice cover by Amy Reeder showing some shock and fear in Supergirl's face. This issue is the first which doesn't include Nick Spencer in the credits so we'll get to see what James Peaty has in store.

There is no clear ending to this story although I think the original solicit had it as a five parter. Will Peaty and Chang still be here when this arc is over?

Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
1:10 Variant cover by DAVID MACK

“The Rise of Eclipso” continues as the JLA and the villainous lord of darkness have a showdown on the dark side of the moon!

No Supergirl seen on the cover so hard to know if she is still in 'dark mode'. At least the hero's seen here aren't sporting the Eclipso half-blue face.

First the Starheart, then Omega Man and the Crime Syndicate, and now Eclipso. It has been a trying year for this new JLA. I think I am going to like Brett Booth's work on the title.

Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA

Picking up where March’s JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #55 left off, “Reign of Doomsday” amps up the danger as Supergirl and Batman are trapped aboard the Justice League satellite with Cyborg Superman and Doomsday — and both villians want to tear them limb from limb! A “who’s who” of the DCU shows up to aid in the battle, but there’s something different about Doomsday — something even the Justice League of America might not be prepared for! The story continues in this month’s SUPERBOY #6!

I talked about the cover before. I see that they fixed the prior coloring error and have Supergirl's dress back to blue. At least it isn't black! Does this mean that the 'dark side' has gone away in JLA already? Let's hope so.

As I said before, I initially thought that Doomsday was going after the Cyborg Superman. Could it be they are working together? This 'Reign of Doomsday' seems to have come out of left field. I hope it gels as a story.

I don't know much about Miguel Sepulveda's art but this cover sure looks good.

1:5 Variant cover A by ADAM HUGHES
1:5 Variant cover B by ALEX ROSS

Superman returns to ACTION COMICS just in time for the title’s historic 900th issue, which clocks in at 100 pages! Everything Paul Cornell and Pete Woods have been building to over the last year culminates here in the ultimate Superman vs. Lex Luthor battle! But that’s not all - this story will lay the grounds for an insanely epic story coming out this summer in the pages of ACTION!

Plus, an incredible roster of guest talent help us celebrate this landmark issue, including the screenwriter of The Dark Knight, David Goyer; famed Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner; the co-creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof; and the creative team behind the hit DC UNIVERSE On line game.

Hooray! We will finally have Superman back in Action in April. And fighting Luthor no less! It feels like things are going to be normal again. Add to that the hint of Cornell's first Superman story this summer and I am happy.

And we get to see these other creators take a crack at Superman as well. I wonder if it will be like Superman/Batman #75 where each creative team had a 2 page spread to tell a story.

Lastly, I can't wait to see an Adam Hughes Superman. I think I might get this Ross one.

1:10 Variant cover by KENNETH ROCAFORT

In the latest chapter of “Grounded,” the recently returned Bruce Wayne stops by Salt Lake City to pay a little visit to Superma — excuse us, Clark Kent! Learn how a legendary friendship was born as Bruce and Clark revisit the previously untold tale of one of their earliest meetings in which the teenaged duo faced the menace of the immortal Vandal Savage!

Well, I haven't been kind to 'Grounded' recently.

And know we get a flashback story about how Bruce and Clark teamed up as teens. Another 'the first time Batman and Superman teamed up' story? I don't know if I would mind it that much except ... it seems like another pause in the 'Grounded' arc. Frankly, I just want this story over ... or to significantly improve in quality.

Nice cover by Cassaday. And I have admired Kenneth Rocafort's Top Cow stuff. So his take on Superman should be interesting.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE

The epic “Reign of Doomsday” crossover hits SUPERBOY! How will the Kid of Steel defeat the monster that managed to kill the Man of Steel? And what is Doomsday’s ultimate goal in attacking all these members of the Super-family? The mysteries deepen as Act I of this story rockets towards its conclusion!

Maybe Superboy can bury Doomsday in wheat germ. That worked with the Parasite! Just kidding ... I have enjoyed what Lemire is doing here and wonder if this will read more like a speed bump, taking away from the momentum that he has built in the main story of the happenings in Smallville.

I also notice that Marco Rudy is doing the art here. He did the Satan Girl pages in Supergirl Annual #2 and the Darkseid pages in the recent Action Annual. His stuff seems rough and trippy. I don't know if it fits this issue's story. We'll see.

And now a couple of surprises!

Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR

What happens when you mix red clothes and white clothes in the wash? You end up with pink undies, right? The same thing happens when someone washes the Tiny Titans costumes with Superman’s red cape! Superman, Alfred, a gaggle of Tiny Titans and Lois Lane are going to have something new and oh-so-pretty in common this month!

So I wasn't happy with the pink S-shield on the cover of Supergirl #60 but here it seems to work fine.

I love hen Supergirl is in Tiny Titan and my guess is the supergirls at home are going to love this issue and it's premise.


Designed by Amanda Conner • Sculpted by Jim Maddox

The Girl from Krypton!
With strength, speed of light and x-ray vision, Supergirl breaks free from the shadow of her cousin to join the battle for justice!

Designed by illustrator Amanda Conner, Supergirl is the latest character to join the popular WOMEN OF THE DC UNIVERSE bust series.

And this was a nice little surprise. Another Supergirl bust in the Women of the DC Universe series, this one designed by Amanda Conner. It looks like a great bust, with a nice action feel to it. I like that it is actually he current costume, right down  to the gold sleeve ends. It is scheduled for sale on September 7, 2011 and is semi-reasonably priced at $60.
This one is going to look great in my collection!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back Issue Box: 'Dark Supergirl' in Supergirl #4

With Dark Supergirl active in the Justice League, punching Donna Troy and back-stabbing anyone she can, I figured it was time to look into the back issue box for another historical versions.

Today I thought I would look at Supergirl #4, written by Peter David and drawn by Gary Frank.

It's important to put this issue in the right context. This was very early in the PAD run when Supergirl was still trying to figure out what it meant to be both Linda Danvers and Matrix. She was trying to come to grips with being a human, figuring out what it meant to have a soul. This was way before she manifested the angelic part of her powers, although hints were already there.

I love Gary Frank's art and his stuff on Supergirl was just lights out fantastic. This cover is just wonderful. Clearly this is a Dark incarnation of Supergirl, oozing 'bad girl' sexiness, back arched, hair teased, devilish grin. I chuckle looking at it now, the belly shirt being such a prominent part of a darker look then, now accepted as the norm. But for me the best part of the cover is the shattered baby doll at Grodd's feet, a clear symbol of lost innocence in these trying and twisted time.

This issue was the second part of a two part Final Night crossover, surprising since their is no cover dress on this issue signifying that. I guess even the late 90's were a simpler time. With the sun almost extinguished, Leesburg was cloaked in darkness. And what better time for Gorilla Grodd to come around and take control of the town!

That's right, Grodd has taken over Leesburg, bringing to the surface the seedier elements of mankind. And part of Leesburg is Supergirl, looking more like an ape, and serving her master Grodd.

And who is slumped over her shoulder? That's Sylvia Danvers, Supergirl's 'new' mother. Somehow Sylvia's faith has kept her free of Grodd's spell. Unfortunately, Supergirl/Linda aren't sure exactly what that means quite yet.

So when Grodd orders her to toss Sylvia onto a roaring fire, Supergirl obeys.

Luckily (?) Buzz is there to shake Supergirl loose of Grodd's powers for a couple of seconds. Buzz, for those who don't know, was a demon on Earth sent to slowly whittle away at Supergirl's angelic resolve until she would fall.

But like any good (?) demon, he wants that fall to happen on his terms, his timetable. It would be too early in Supergirl ascendancy for her to fall. And so, calling on Supergirl's love, he awakens her heroic tendencies and familial love. Supergirl nudges Sylvia over the fire with a telekinetic blast, saving her mother from the fire. In fact, Buzz then comes 'to the rescue' of Sylvia befriending her and leading her away from the mob.

Grodd has taken over Leesburg using the 'Heart of Darkness', a talisman that unmasks the uncontrolled and uncivilized part of man. One caveat of the talisman, the area under its control needs to be ... well ... dark. So the sun-eater threat is a perfect time. Even if life on Earth is going to end in a short time, at least Grodd is thrilled that he will contol a small area.
I love how it was Buzz who gave Grodd the Heart. This was just another domino in the long trail he was building to crush Linda/Supergirl's spirit. Buzz was such a powerful character, sort of a Constantine gone really bad (although in the end, there were glimmers of good in him).

The effect of the talisman spreads over the whole town.

One of the people was Linda's friend Mattie, a young physician whose brother has been killed by an enraged town member. Mattie, under Grodd's spell, attacks the man and eventually kills him. That sin, that reminder that civility is just a veneer over the dark stuff inside man, haunts her throughout the title.

Wallowing in the sickness of the town, Supergirl goes out looking for trouble. Amidst the chaos, she notices Wally the God-boy. He stands out like a sore thumb, his '50s squeaky clean kid image brightening the carnage around him.

When Supergirl goes to investigate him, she comes across the bloody tattered uniform of her 'new father' police officer Fred Danvers. Fred had been overwhelmed by the insane crowds earlier in the issue.

The sight of her father's name tag, much like her mother's peril, shakes Supergirl free from the Heart of Darkness.

She rushes to Grodd to confront him.

I always like images of Supergirl taking down some heavies. Here she bashes Grodd with a nice right hook.

The two battle through the town with Supergirl finally beating him down.

I really love this panel as Grodd realizes what Supergirl does not; Supergirl is new to humanity. She has an idealized vision of humanity, that good exists in man. Grodd knows that hate is just below the surface in all of us.

But she is above it all.

And suddenly, off screen, Parallax saves the day, defeating the sun-eater. The sun rises on Leesburg, freeing everyone from Grodd's influence. The towns people look around, seeing all the things that they have done.

Without his talisman, Grodd has to resort to his old tactics, psi-blasts and bluster.

Now fighting a more typical battle, Supergirl uses her own TK to knock a large icicle off from the roof above Grodd. Perhaps guided by a higher power, the ice spike pierces Grodd's chest, 'killing' him.

The town unfortunately has to clean-up more than the mess and gorilla carcass. Everybody has to look inside themselves, knowing those feelings were dredged up so easily. And the have to look outside themselves, seeing the damage they have done to each other.

I have touted PAD's Supergirl series in the past. I loved this series, a unique take of both Supergirl and super-heroics in general. This issue was an early view at what David had in store for the character, explorations of morality, religion, pride, and redemption. Frank did art on the first 9 issues and his stuff is stunning. This issue seems so timely given the dark manifestation of Supergirl.

Supergirl #4  is usually found in the bargain boxes at conventions. The first 9 issues of the series are collected in an out-of-print trade. As usual, I highly recommend the series especially the first 50 issues.

Overall grade: A

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Justice League of America #53

Justice League of America #53 also came out this week, another book starring Supergirl and marking the end of the Omega Man story. It also is the last issue that Mark Bagley will be providing art as he is heading back to Ultimate Spiderman. Who says you can't go home again!

This also continued the character exploration of Kara as Dark Supergirl. It seems just when Supergirl was stepping into a prominent role in the Justice League, acting as this team's Superman, she took a step backwards as Dark Supergirl. I have my worries about this direction. I wonder just how long Robinson plans to keep her in the black garb. I wonder how he will explain this manifestation ... and hopefully explain how and why it has gone away.

Lastly, I have said how much I have enjoyed Robinson writing 'big stories' for the League, how I think he is really challenging them with major planetary threats. The problem with big stories is that they need big endings and that can be tough.

On to the story.

The issue opens with Superwoman and Donna Troy slugging it out while a bemused Omega Man, Ultraman, and Supergirl watch.

I have wondered about Donna's character in this book. She has seemed belligerent and blood-thirsty. While I know she has always been a warrior, she has seemed almost unhinged here ... vicious and harsh.

Here, her inner monologue shows that she realizes it as well. She talks about how she is always angry even when she appears calm. She wants to have peace again; she wants to love again. But she can't.

I am glad that Robinson put in this little bit of introspection. This change in Donna's personality needed to be addressed in some way. At least this is a beginning. I like Donna a lot.

After a short time, Supergirl grows bored of watching them beat on each other and ends the fight by bashing them both unconscious.

Then she voices what it means to be Dark Supergirl. She is young, hot, and has the powers of a god. She wants to have fun. Ugh ... it sounds like the early stories from the Supergirl series all over again doesn't it. The Supergirl that didn't want to be a hero, didn't feel compelled to do good, and who wanted to rave dance or hang out at bars.

She isn't necessarily evil. She's just shallow.

I don't like this Supergirl at all, especially not in light of all the progress her character has made in her own title.

The villains scoop up the unconscious bodies of the Amazons and fly to where Batman and the rest of the League are holed up.

Last issue we saw Batman and the League team up with the CSA. It turns out that between issues, Batman has made a deal with the Omega Man. If the Omega Man spares the lives of the League members, Batman will bring down the force bubble surrounding the city.

When Jade pushes Batman on this plan, Dick talks about saving his own skin. It sounds completely wrong for the character, almost forced.

Turns out that Owlman has convinced Dick that the best plan of action is to fix the resurrection machine and drop the dome so that the collected heroes of the planet can bring the fight to the Omega Man.

It is admitting defeat, saying that this League can't win. It is exposing billions of people to extreme danger. It is, as Jade says, an act of cowardice and disgusting.

It also still doesn't sound like something a Batman would say, Bruce or Dick.

With the machine fixed, Batman prepares to dissipate the energy field around the city, when Owlman betrays the League, activating a neural impacter of some sort, paralyzing the heroes.

Even Ultraman and Superwoman are in on the plot. Turns out that Owlman has also wanted to survive and he felt the best way to do that was to team with Omega Man. By helping the Omega Man escape, Earth would be left untouched for the CSA to rule. Omega Man would drain the rest of the universe instead.

Owlman gloats, saying Dick has been outplayed from the beginning. I wonder if this was Owlman underestimating Dick's abilities. Would Owlman think that Bruce would be taken in so easily? I doubt it.

But it seems like it was actually a triple cross. That Batman knew what he was doing all along.

When the machine is turned on, it doesn't drop the force dome. Instead, it opens up a portal which sucks the Omega Man away.

It turns out that Dark Supergirl didn't betray the League at all. During the kiss she had with Batman last issue, Supergirl told him she would help the League for a favor in return.

And with that reveal, Supergirl blasts Ultraman with heat vision and throws him through the portal machine as well. In fact, the whole CSA is defeated by their League versions and removed from the Earth.

While I never get tired of seeing Supergirl pound on Ultraman, I am already getting a little tired of Dark Supergirl.

So how did this all happen?

With the CSA distracted, Batman had the Tangent Green Lantern use her powers to resurrect Alex Luthor, giving him a chance to redeem himself. Back amongst the living, he realizes that his doomsday energy field, the field which has manifested as the Omega Man, was a mistake. He needs to rectify it.

It shows good strategy by Batman, hiding the Green Lantern in plain sight, knowing he needed her abilities.

I also am glad that Alex Luthor, a hero of Crisis on Infinite Earths, was able to do this one last good deed. I was one of those people who wasn't happy that Alex was the villain of Infinite Crisis, sullying his heroism from COIE.

Alex knows how to defeat the energy and redesigned the machine to make the dark energy into a 'good' one, restoring life wherever it was taken from. It will cure all the worlds it has hurt. Only on the League's Earth will it remain a force of death (since here it has not been changed by the portal's energy).

The Tangent Green Lantern enters the portal and returns to her (presumably) reborn world.

It is a little too easy ... sort of a 'reverse the polarity' deus ex machina. That's the problem with near omnipotent villains. It is hard to write how they are defeated.

The energy dome around Washington D.C. is finally dropped and the League accepts the adulation of the super-hero community which is congregated there.

In some ways I think this was the main purpose of this arc for Robinson. This team has defeated a major villain and is now recognized globally as being the Justice League of America. They are worthy of that name.

And everything is all neat and wrapped up with a bow.

Except, despite the Omega Man's influence being gone, we still have Dark Supergirl. As I have said before, I will give Robinson a little bit of time with this concept, hoping it ends the right way. But I want plain old Supergirl acting in this League. I also wonder whether or not he will deal with the response of other heroes to this manifestation. Will we see Superman talk to her about it? You would think he would fly up to her immediately. In fact, given the last time she was dressed that way she almost killed the League on the moon, you think everyone would want to confront her about it. This isn't something that should just be accepted by her friends or family.

So Dark Supergirl's presence and the easy way Omega Man was defeated felt two low points in an otherwise pretty entertaining arc. And it doesn't look like this League will have time to catch their breath. Eclipso arrives next issue.

Mark Bagley's art seemed a notch below his normal work here, appearing rushed and rough in a good portion of the issue.

Overall grade: B