The GeeksverseFrom the Fan’s Desk | On DC’s Convergence, “geek movie” overload, and more

From the Fan’s Desk | On DC’s Convergence, “geek movie” overload, and more
Published on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 by
In today’s column: We talk about DC’s upcoming Convergence event, the idea that we could be headed towards “geek movie” overload, and IDW’s January 2015 solicitations. ALSO: Impressions of NBC’s Constantine and some news for fans of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.

When DC launched its New 52 initiative in 2011, there were a number of significant characters left out of the reboot, as well as the weird five-year gap in continuity—that is, just about every New 52 title started five years into its protagonist’s “career” as a superhero, with readers left to speculate as to what happened in that time frame. Did Superman die? Did Bane break Batman’s back? How many Robins were there? Where are Ted Kord, Donna Troy, and Wally West?

Some of those questions were eventually answered. Some weren’t. But as it stands, the New 52 is still something of a continuity nightmare with pieces that don’t neatly fit in with each other.

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Image: DC Comics/USA Today

Convergence, a new tentpole comics event scheduled to run through the New 52 titles in April and May of 2015 seems like it will be the event that answers those questions. Or it could possibly turn the New 52 continuity into a bigger mess than it already is.

I’m leaning towards it being the latter myself. DC co-publisher Jim Lee describing Convergence as “the most ‘meta’ epic event we’ve done” doesn’t fill me with anticipation. Quite the opposite, actually.

More than the content, though, what might be a problem with Convergence is how DC is changing its regular publishing schedule to accommodate the event. The way I understand it, instead of releasing a bunch of tie-in miniseries to go along with the main event series, DC will be suspending their entire slate of monthly books for two months to make room for 40 two-issue miniseries tie-ins.

In terms of budget (both the readers’ and DC’s), this makes sense, I suppose, since it doesn’t actually add to the total publishing output for the event’s duration. But I suspect that more than a few retailers are worried that regular readers of New 52 titles disinterested in the event—not every comics reader buys blindly into events and crossovers—would rather wait it out rather than buy the miniseries replacing their comic for two months. How many small retailers can afford a two-month interruption in their cash flow?

The premise of Convergence does have potential for old-school multiverse fun, though. From the teaser image, it seems that each miniseries will feature characters from the various “worlds” or “Earths” Braniac has collected, so one miniseries will have the Wildstorm Universe characters, another might feature the original Justice Society from Earth-Two, a third would have the Charlton Comics characters (Blue Beetle, Nightshade, Peacemaker, etc.), a fourth would involve Earth-Three’s Crime Syndicate of America, and so on and so forth. If nothing else, fans of the more obscure Charlton Comics characters will probably appreciate the new material, seeing as how only a handful of them were properly incorporated into the shared DC superhero universe after 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.

But what is the ultimate plan in all this? Is this another reboot? Will we see books splitting off from the New 52 and continuing on more-or-less isolated in their own continuity? Or does the name Convergence mean that DC will be unifying everything into one big mess?

Currently I’m reading only two New 52 titles, Grayson and Deathstroke, and both of those are “on-the-bubble” books I might drop with the slightest dip in quality or slackening of interest—right now I could go either way on them. What will Convergence mean for these two books, if they’re even around by then?

Still, I’m open to the possibility that I could end up reading more DC books post-Convergence, particularly if the Wildstorm Universe comes back because of it. Going off DC’s track record with the New 52, though, I think Convergence might simply end up swapping old continuity issues for new ones.

Are we headed for a “geek movie” overload?

I don’t go to the movies all that often. In the past few years, I’ve only gone to the theaters to watch The Avengers, the Hobbit movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The LEGO Movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s it. Prior to The Avengers‘ May 2012 wide-release, the last movie I remember seeing in the theater was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.

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Click on the infographic to view the original Comics Alliance article.

But looking forward, thanks to this handy infographic from Comics Alliance, I know I’ll be going to the movies a couple times a year from now until 2020. And the Comics Alliance listing doesn’t even include non-comics affiliated “geek movies” such as the upcoming Star Wars movies (one per year going forward, according to recent announcements), the LEGO Movie sequel, G.I. Joe 3 or whatever they’re calling it, and the upcoming Harry Potter spin-offs. Isn’t there also a Star Trek sequel coming at some point? Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim 2? There’s also Universal Studios’ attempt to create a Marvel Cinematic Universe-style franchise using its classic monsters. And who knows what other “geek culture”-related movies are in the pipeline.

The “geek culture” movies I know I’ll go see in the theaters:

  • 2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • 2015: The Avengers: Age of Ultron; new Star Wars movie
  • 2016: Captain America: Civil War; Dr. Strange; new Star Wars movie; Suicide Squad
  • 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2; Black Panther; new Star Wars movie
  • 2018: The LEGO Movie 2; The Avengers: Infinity War part 1; Captain Marvel; Inhumans; new Star Wars movie
  • 2019: Avengers: Infinity War part 2

For me, that’s a lot of movies to catch in the theater, although I’m sure more dedicated movie fans will catch all of these and more. But is there such a thing as too much “geek pop culture”?

I’ve started to hear people who don’t consider themselves “geeks” or “comics nerds” or whatever label they use complain about all the “comic book movies” that keep coming out. And they probably don’t even know about the ones that are coming in the next five years. The success of these “geek culture” films and TV shows doesn’t hinge on the geek crowd but on the much larger mainstream audience, the ones that have never picked up a comic book and probably don’t plan on doing it even if they like the movie it’s based on. And it’s entirely possible that this mainstream audience has had its fill of superheroes for now, and that it will start pushing back against the geek culture movie the way it’s always done with the movie trends Hollywood keeps pushing beyond their “sell by” date. One thing I’m wondering though, are we also approaching the pint where even the geeks are ready to take a break from all the comic book films?

IDW January 2015 Solicitation talk

GIJOE-s4no5The full list of the titles IDW Publishing has solicited for January 2015 can be found at this link.

Each month I’ll take a look through and see how the solicitations will affect my reading for that month. Books fall into four categories: Books I Read (monthly titles I follow), Books I’ll Check Out (new titles to try out), and the dreaded Books I’m Dropping (just like it says, goodbye.)

  • Books I Read (print): G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Books I Read (digital): The October Faction, Transformers vs G.I. Joe, Winterworld, Ragnarok
  • Books I’ll Check Out: Judas: The Last Days, The Life Eaters, Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues, Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra, Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit
  • Books I’m Dropping: None

Some random thoughts while surfing through the listings:

  • Zombies vs Robots: Steve Niles is writing this series? Very cool. It’s hard to tell from the solicitation text if it’s a two stories-in-one issue,
  • Judas-Last-DaysJudas: The Last Days: I want to check this out. It sounds interesting. But it’s hard to drop 25 bucks on a single book these days. But I’ll find a way.
  • The Life Eaters: See above. I’m interested in this but it’s hard to drop 20 dollars on a book sight unseen. I think Judas will take priority.
  • The October Faction: I wish Niles had continued with more Mystery Society instead of this, but the first issue was good, so I’m on board for a bit.
  • Wild Blue Yonder: I’ve been picking up the miniseries as issues come out (the release schedule has been erratic lately) but I might pick up the collected edition as well. It’s that good.
  • Galaxy Quest: More Galaxy Quest? Yes, please. Loved the movie. This should be interesting.
  • Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra: Hhhhmmmm, I liked Costa’s stuff on the Cobra series but I’m bored with Snake Eyes. I’ll give this a try, anyway.
  • Creature Cops: Special Varmint Unit: Rob Anderson has been doing a great job with his Rex, Zombie Killer comic, so I’ll definitely be checking this out.

January’s looking like a strong month for IDW with five books to check out, if I can squeeze the graphic novels into my budget. Even if I can’t, three new books to check out is still a good month.

Some quick thoughts on NBC’s Constantine

I was as surprised as everyone else when it was announced NBC would be airing a TV show featuring the John Constantine character. This is a character that has been a mainstay of DC’s Vertigo line of books for decades. The fantasy-horror Hellblazer comic where Constantine served as the protagonist was known for pushing the limits of what could be depicted in comics, even within Vertigo’s mature readers context. He’s definitely not a character you would expect to see headline a series on a major network. Constantine would be something you’d expect on a cable network like HBO or Showtime, places that have a track record for pushing relatively transgressive shows.

The big question heading into Constantine‘s TV debut: How much of the lead character would have to be neutered to appear on NBC?

The answer, surprisingly, is “not much.”

After watching the first episode, I’m actually glad Constantine is on NBC and not HBO, Showtime, FX, or AMC. I think having to work within certain restraints and limitations as far as language, sexual content, violence, horror, and gore actually helped keep the show’s focus on telling a solid story.

There was a lot to like about the debut episode, chief among them actor Matt Ryan’s turn as the show’s lead. He’s snarky, selfish, crazy, sarcastic, irreverent, and only as heroic as he needs to be. You see the pain in his eyes, admitting he messed up and sentenced a girl to hell. You understand that he would willingly trade another’s life to save that of a little girl, without a second thought. Matt Ryan is John Constantine come to life.

The show also does a great job dealing with the supernatural aspects of the source material. The ghosts are equal parts chilling and sad. The demons are made out to look scary and terrifying, but not to the point that they look like caricatures, and the special effects are done well.

The teleplay explains who Constantine is, why he is the way he is, and what his goals are. We meet some of his supporting cast and get a little of the backstory between the angels and the demons. And the angels aren’t all that nice either.

I was surprised how much I liked the show. It’s definitely been added to the list of shows to watch.

The Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light Collector’s Guide Kickstarter

Fans of the old Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light cartoon, have you ever wanted an in-depth guide to its associated toyline? Your wish could be granted, if Christopher Ibbitt and Gemma Tovee can get enough support for their Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light Collector’s Guide Kickstarter.

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I didn’t actually collect the Visionaries figures when they came out in the 1980s but I read the short-lived Visionaries comic series (published by Marvel under its Star Comics imprint and featuring art by Mark Bagley and Romeo Tanghal) and watched the animated series (which featured character designs by comics legend Alex Niño). I thought the concept of a technologically-advanced society suddenly faced with the failure of electronics and having to resort to magic was great and I loved the character designs. Like a lot of other entertainment from my childhood, though, I lost interest as I got older but now I’m finding a renewed interest in the property.

Now, I’m a huge fan of fan-made collector’s guides. I’ve got most of the ones made for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe. Maybe someday I might even make my own. In the meantime, though, let’s see if we can help Ibbitt and Tovee make Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light Collector’s Guide a reality.

And Visionaries fans might also want to check out the Visionaries.net Facebook group which is prepping for the launch of a new site dedicated to cataloguing the history of this fun property. And who knows, with Hasbro recently filing a trademark application for “Visionaries,” we might see the Visionaries return to toy shelves, comics, and television sooner rather than later.

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