Batman

Hammer Museum celebrates 75 years of DC Comics

Hammer Museum: 75 Years of DC Comics (click for enbiggification)

The Hammer Museum here in LA reached out to let us know about a free event celebrating 75 Years of DC Comics on Tuesday December 14th at 7 PM.

Yes believe it or not, back in 1935 (!), 12 US Presidents ago, way before either Iraq Wars, before the Cold War, the Vietnam War, a few years before World War II and with the country still trying to shake off the Great Depression, a company then called National Allied Publications took a risk by publishing the first comic book of all-original material, New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine. Before then, comics were mostly or entirely made up of recycled newspaper comic strips. It was an uphill venture that initially didn’t pay off until 1938 with the release of Action Comics #1 and the debut of Superman. This was not only a huge hit, but it ended up inventing an entire sub-genre: superheroes. As National Allied changed hands, it’s name evolved to National Periodical Publications and eventually DC Comics and just recently DC Entertainment, named after the home of their second mega-hit Batman from Detective Comics. DC has remained an industry leader since the late 1930s, publishing more world icons like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash to accompany Superman and Batman.

Last month saw the release of a massive retrospective, 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, written by former DC Comics president Paul Levitz. (Levitz was among our interviewees for Dig Comics at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego.) To help in the yearlong celebration, Levitz will be joined at UCLA’s Hammer Museum by current DC executives and creators Jim Lee and Geoff Johns to discuss the history and future of DC. The event will be moderated by comedian Patton Oswalt, who’s no stranger to the world of comic books.

Within its short 75-year lifespan, DC Comics has created and destroyed entire cities, worlds, and universes with a cast of characters that includes the titans of the Superhero world. Comedian, actor, and writer Patton Oswalt will moderate a discussion among DC Comics’ Paul LevitzJim Lee, and Geoff Johns, the creative and editorial superheroes behind the pages of BatmanSupermanWonder WomanThe Flash and Green Lantern, who will discuss the pulp origins of DC Comics’ story lines and characters, as well as the future of digital publishing.

ALL HAMMER PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE FREE. Tickets are required, and are available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject to availability. Reservations not accepted, RSVPs not required.

Parking is available under the museum for $3 after 6:00pm.

While this looks like fun, the really interesting part to me is the inclusion of discussing the future of digital publishing. DC has made some good moves in this area just in the last few months, but it has also sadly shut down its imprint for original webcomics Zuda Comics. Word is that some more bold moves are in the works. I’m not expecting any solid announcements, but I’m hoping there will be some positive discussion to show that they’re ready to push strongly in that direction.

And I’m also unrealistically hoping they’ll pass out free copies of Levitz’ 75 Years of DC Comics to everyone in the audience, Oprah-style.

Print Comics: Still Awesome

My post on Monday about innovative experiments with digital comics doesn’t mean I don’t love me some dead tree comics. Print still has a lot to offer but digital means that the physical version has to step it up and offer more. Fortunately there are some good examples out there.

As a counter-point to the Johnny Cash digital graphic novel with soundtrack, there is BB Wolf and the Three L.P.’s by JD Arnold and Richard Koslowski from Top Shelf Productions. It can be purchased with a 7-song CD, BB Wolf and the Howlers: The Lost Recordings. The graphic novel spins 1920s race tension with the Three Little Pigs fairy tale. The CD brings the music of the titular blues singing main character to life, which is a very cool way to eliminate the guess work of what the music of a fictional character from a silent medium sounds like. You can also get the limited edition BB Wolf Box Set, which includes the graphic novel, the CD and a wooden box with laser engraved art on the cover and 2 shot glasses for that authentic hard-drinking blues effect.

Creating such an experience that goes beyond the pages is a compelling way to make it still matter to have print and physical product. But it doesn’t have to be about creating ancillary material. Savvy creators and publishers can find ways to have their published material be an aesthetic extension of the world they have created.

Fantagraphics Books has always excelled at this. C. Tyler‘s You’ll Never Know, both Book I: A Good and Decent Man and the new release Book II: Collateral Damage, are designed to look like scrap books or photo albums, inside and out. A visually powerful choice that is incredibly appropriate since the story centers on a woman trying to piece together her reticent father’s wartime past.

Last year, DC Comics published Wednesday Comics, an anthology of superhero and adventure stories printed on large broadsheet newsprint that folded out to 14″ x 20″ pages, approximately double the size of modern comic book pages. Reminiscent of the old Sunday comics pages from the first half of the 1900’s, it was a kick to see Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman and other characters in this retro format that pre-dated nearly all of them.

There are a lot of other good examples. Some publishers, like Archaia Entertainment and Drawn & Quarterly, just have consistently great design sense in their print publications. Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon, started its life as a digital graphic novel on the Amazon Kindle, but has ended up being a great looking physical product. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library books (and really any of his books) are always intricately stunning.

So sure, digital comics are the future. But that doesn’t automatically mean print comics have to be relegated to the past. There are still new and creative ways to make an appealing print comic book or graphic novel. As the ratio of print to digital finds its level ground, it will be up to creators and publishers to make products in both realms that are compelling and worth a reader’s investment.

The Birth of Me in Comics

The Comic Book Database, a great resource site, has a cool new feature where you can search comic books by cover date. So, naturally I had to search for comics dated for my birth month and year: February, 1976. Play along at home!

Look out! That Assassin guy is right behind you doing exactly what you thought was impossible!

I can’t imagine it gets much awesomer than this British comic. I wish I was as tough as your boots. (Wait, did you say “Actual size”?!)

I’m not sure what’s more shocking. The Jaws double’s terribly chapped lips? Or Ghost Rider’s flaming skull and the ocean ignoring each other.

OK, I’m detecting a certain aquatic theme, possibly inspired by a certain pop culture-defining film (see: coat tail riders).

Well certainly Batman is too cool to be that lame.

Oh Batman. Really? The Olympics? Sigh…

Surely Marvel is above this kind of cheap pandering.

What in the — ?!

OK, why is Spider-Man dragging a poor innocent girl into this implausibly ridiculous yet dangerous game? Unless the little girl is subbing for the football in this demented version of Not-Soccer. You’d think something this EXTREME would bring in at least a few spectators but it looks like they couldn’t give tickets away to this game.

Later: “Eh, let’s go back to playing regular football.”

So, was it possibly football season when this issue came out?

Oh-ho! It’s funny because it’s sexist!

Oh ho! It’s funny because they have eating disorders.

Come on Captain America, help me out.

Watch out for the phallic-helmeted Trojan Horde! Let’s face it, no one can resist cataclysmic Kirby action.

To be fair, this was from a time when superheroes had to announce their ethnicity in their name. But only if they weren’t white.

Oh. My. God. I have no idea what’s happening or why, but I must have this.

If this issue doesn’t include lyrics and sheet music, I’m writing an angry letter.

Watch the hands, pal.

I understand this was the inspiration for Bill Murray’s Scrooged.

Don’t… look… behind… you. You might need more American flags printed on large sheets of cardboard paper.

Wow, this is crazy!

I think we all see what’s coming.

Dodging is so WILD!

What jerks. Worst friends ever.

Every twin I know has this exact same problem.

Stay back! It looks like someone might actually read this. We don’t stand a chance!

I love it!

This would never get published today. For several reasons.

So… Spider-Man and Storm (from the X-Men) are now thieves who steal from helpless old men? Uh… great.

And finally…

But.. but… I thought they were the same person! OK I admit it. I’m actually intrigued.

And that’s my birth month in comics! Here’s the full list, if you haven’t had enough.

(One thing to note that you may have noticed: Comics have traditionally been dated about 2-3 months in advance of their actual release date in an attempt to lengthen their shelf life, so most of these had probably been released in November or December, 1975. Still, it’s much easier go by cover date than try to determine when each individual comic actually hit stands.)

Barbie at Comic-Con

Yesterday I spent the day at Comic-Con International in San Diego serving as Barbie’s professional photograher. I’ll let her walk us through these and provide captions. Take it away, Barbie!

Thanks, Corey! I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what a super-cute and cool chick like me was doing at “Nerd Vegas”. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead there but that all changed this past weekend!

This is My Comic-Con Adventure!

It all started Friday night… I got back from shopping early and found Ken reading something weird. Like, gross weird.

That’s right, he was reading PORN! (And I think he was doing something with those big green fists, too.) (more…)

Happy Birthday Batman

On May 27, 1939, the Bat-Man made his first appearance with the release of Detective Comics #27. I’m not convinced that’s the exact date the comic hit newsstands, but Wikipedia seems to think so, and lordie knows they would know.

Anyway, Bruce Wayne quickly ditched the hyphen for his costumed identity but not too much else has changed.

That’s right, 69 (tee-hee) years of trying to stop evil-doers to please his dead parents. Man, that’s a lot of guilt. Or an obsession. I mean, maybe it’s time to get over it. In the standard course of things, most people eventually lose their parents. Some have even lost them in a very violent and unfortunate way. Doesn’t mean they go all psycho about it, and run through the streets in some weird costume. Of course, he’s mega-rich, so I guess he gets to be eccentric. Man, the rich get to do everything cool.

Has anyone considered that maybe all the guy needs is a hug?

Come on, Batman. Hug?